New trial ordered for man convicted in fatal stabbing of Whiteville couple

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Norfolk Junior Best (Photo: NCDPS)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY/AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a death row inmate convicted of robbing and murdering an elderly couple in their Whiteville home.

Norfolk “Fuzzy” Best was found guilty of murdering the couple in 1991. But Best’s attorney discovered new evidence 20 years later that had been withheld by the state that could have proven exculpatory.

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The justices declined to weigh in on whether they believe Best is innocent or guilty.

According to the Supreme Court opinions, it states: “There is a reasonable probability that the outcome of his trial would have been different. We conclude that the undisclosed evidence was material. It was reasonably probable that, had it been disclosed to Mr. Best prior to trial, the outcome would have been different. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s denial of Mr. Best’s motion for appropriate relief, remanding with instructions to grant the motion and order a new trial.”

Justice Anita Earls said she was “disturbed” that North Carolina withheld evidence that could have freed Best.

Justice Paul Newby believes the additional evidence would not have changed the jury’s decision.

Further into the document, it reads:

We are sufficiently disturbed by the extent of the withheld evidence in this case, and by the materiality of that evidence, that it undermines our confidence in the jury’s verdict. The exculpatory evidence withheld by the State for approximately twenty years was material. It either negated or cast doubt upon the principal evidence presented by the State at Mr. Best’s trial. For that reason, we are of the opinion that “there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been
different.”

Bladen County Superior Court is ordered to grant a new trial.