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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Marsha Goodenow's Swift Justice Rocks Charlotte's Legal Community: Fired With Cause!

Peter Gilchrist Sends Termination Letter To Top Prosecutor Goodenow

It was an decision that many found to be shocking, especially coming from a district attorney who only has five weeks left in office.

“I was surprised, a lot of people were surprised,” says Noel Tinn, a defense attorney.

The surprise was that after more than 20 years as a prosecutor, Marsha Goodenow was fired Monday by District Attorney Peter Gilchrist.

If you name a big case in Mecklenburg County, chances are Goodenow has been attached to it.

She successfully prosecuted Demeatrius Montgomery, who killed two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers; banker David Crespi, who killed his children and serial killer Henry Wallace.

“I’m just astounded, with her experience, she taught and trained practically all of the members of the homicide team,” says defense attorney Norman Butler.

Tuesday afternoon Gilchrist sent out an e-mail confirming his actions. In his message he called Goodenow an excellent and ethical lawyer and doesn’t say why the split was necessary. The message does acknowledge that the staff may have difficulties understanding and accepting his decision.

Read Peter Gilchrist's e-mail about Goodenow's Termination here.

Attorney Noel Tinn does not think the firing will tarnish Goodenow’s reputation.

"People know her character too well...whatever happened, happened but I think it’s unlikely her reputation is going to change as a result," he says.

NewsChannel 36 tried to contact both parties, but did not get a response. Goodenow’s last day will be Dec. 13.

Peter Gilchrist Refuses To Explain Firing Of Marsha Goodenow

Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist on Tuesday refused to say why he fired veteran homicide prosecutor Marsha Goodenow.

"The only comment I'll make is Marsha is an excellent and ethical lawyer," Gilchrist told the Observer. "I'll have no statement, public or otherwise, about what has occurred."

Goodenow's firing comes just weeks after she and two other prosecutors obtained murder convictions in one of the most important cases in years - the 2007 slayings of two police officers. Demeatrius Montgomery was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for the murders of Officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark.

In an interview Tuesday, Gilchrist confirmed he had fired Goodenow on Monday but refused to even characterize what kind of issue or issues were involved.

But several sources told the Observer Gilchrist may have been unhappy with Goodenow over what he perceived as a lack of communication between the two over problems with some cases. Goodenow is widely known as a tough but fair prosecutor, who demanded much of herself and her staff in the homicide unit.

Her termination, as well as its timing, shocked many in the legal community. Gilchrist has just weeks left on the job before the end of his 36 years as Mecklenburg's DA. Goodenow, 50, the single mother of a daughter in college, had worked for Gilchrist for 20 years.

"It was surprising news to me, and many members of the legal community have had the same reaction," said Charlotte lawyer James Wyatt.

"I've never known of Marsha Goodenow doing anything unethical."

Goodenow declined Tuesday to talk about the reasons Gilchrist cited for his decision to fire her.

Andrew Murray, who will replace Gilchrist in January as Mecklenburg's new DA, said Tuesday he doesn't know why Goodenow was let go.

"Mr. Gilchrist has not shared with me the reasons behind his decision to terminate Ms. Goodenow," he said.

Murray said he couldn't say whether he'd rehire Goodenow. He said he'd first have to find out why she was fired and evaluate the office's prosecutors.

"I haven't determined what my team is going to look like," Murray said.

Emotional Courtroom As Demeatrius Montgomery Is Found Guilty

In the minutes after Demeatrius Montgomery was found Guilty and sentenced to two terms of life in prison, there was an extraordinary scene in the hallway outside of the courtroom.

Montgomery's father hugged first one, then both of the fathers of murdered police officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton.

Minutes earlier, Shelton's father, John was given the opportunity to speak in court before Montgomery was sentenced.

As Montgomery stared straight ahead, John Shelton said of him, "His family will get to see him in prison. If I want to see my son, I have to go to Sharon Memorial Garden and look at a grave."

A jury deliberated for two hours on Wednesday and for most of the day Thursday before returning the verdict of guilty on two counts of first-degree murder.

Montgomery was sentenced to two life terms without parole that will run consecutively.

The Death Penalty was not an option because early in the trial the judge found that a former CMPD detective, Arvin Fant, threw away notes from his interviews with some witnesses.

After the sentencing, District Attorney Peter Gilchrist said, "I think to know that this man will never be back out again may be, realistically, the most anybody could hope for."

Police Chief Rodney Monroe said, "Having the prosecution put forth the case that they did really has brought justice, not only to the families but to an entire community."

Shelton and Clark never had time to draw their own weapons before they were gunned down at the Timber Ridge Apartment complex on March 31, 2007.

Montgomery's attorneys argued that someone else was to blame.

But Chief Monroe said the right man is going to prison. "I believe that the evidence that we had 3 1/2 years ago, it hasn't changed. It was solid then and it was solid throughout this case."

DNA Expert Can't Confirm Link Between Montgomery & Murder Weapon

An expert couldn't say for sure Friday that the DNA of a man suspected of killing two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers is on the murder weapon.

The 13th day of testimony in the murder trial of Demeatrius Montgomery got under way Friday morning with John Donahue on the stand.

Donahue performed the tests on the gun when he worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg crime lab.

He testified that he couldn't exclude Montgomery's DNA from being on the gun because he found DNA from multiple people.

Donahue confirmed that DNA from Officer Jeff Shelton was found on the weapon, indicating there was a struggle.

Shelton and Officer Sean Clark were shot to death at the Timber Ridge apartments in 2007. Montgomery was arrested soon after the shooting. Witnesses have testified seeing him running from the scene.

If convicted, Montgomery is facing life in prison. A judge took the death penalty off the table early in the case because an investigator mishandled case notes.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Google Maps

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