Attorney claims ’emotionally charged evidence’ violated killer’s right to fair trial
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — James Bradley’s attorney is appealing his murder conviction, claiming emotionally charged evidence from other crimes was allowed during the trial, with violated Bradley’s right to a fair trial and due process.
In June, Bradley was convicted of killing his co-worker, Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk. Her body has not been found. A judge sentenced Bradley to between 30 and 37 years in prison.
According to the appellant brief on Friday, the court erred by allowing Bradley’s trial to be permeated from the beginning to end with ‘excessive and emotionally charged’ 404(b) evidence of other crimes, including testimony and photographs of a dead child and a decomposing, duct-taped body.
According to the brief, a pre-trial hearing in April of 2016 reviewed the state’s intent to introduce the 404(b) evidence. That evidence included the murder of Bradley’s 8-year-old stepdaughter Ivy Gibson in 1988, to which he pleaded guilty, as well as the murder of Elisha Tucker, for which he has been indicted, and fictional horror stories Bradley had written.
The brief states that during the trial, photos were shown of the dumpster where Gibson’s body was thrown, the landfill where her body was eventually found, and pictures of Gibson before her death and autopsy photos of the deceased child were shown to the jury.
The attorney also states that the evidence connecting Bradley with Rippy’s disappearance was minimal. According to the brief, investigators arrested Rippy not because additional evidence had been uncovered proving Rippy had died or linking Bradley to Rippy’s death, but because officers mistakenly believed the body uncovered in Hampstead was Rippy. An autopsy determined the body was Tucker’s.
The appellate brief states that because the trial court failed to enforce any limitation on the state’s presentation of 404(b) evidence, Bradley’s jurors were allowed to view photos of an 8-year-old girl smiling in her yearbook photo contrasted with photos of her decomposing body at autopsy. Jurors also viewed detailed photos of the exhumation of Tucker’s body and detailed autopsy photos.
The appellate brief states that evidence may be introduced under rule 404(b) only when there is substantial evidence of a similar act, but “the murder of Ivy Gibson bears no similarity to the disappearance of Shannon Rippy.”
The attorney states the only similarity is that Bradley denied both murders at first, but within two days, he confessed to Gibson’s murder and pleaded guilty to first degree murder.
The brief also claims the only established similarity between Tucker and Rippy is that they both knew Bradley.
Finally, the attorney writes that Bradley’s short stories were not relevant and were grossly prejudicial. Bradley wrote supernatural murder stories. In one, a man morphs into a beast and eats his victims. In the second story, a professor strangles women and keeps the bodies and mementos in shoe box in his closet.
The court found as fact that the short stories were similar to the murder of Rippy. The brief states neither woman was found in Bradley’s closet, no mementos were found, and both stories are revolting and bear no similarity to the known murders of Gibson or Tucker, much less Rippy’s disappearance.
Attorneys claim the excessive amount of evidence regarding a victim for whose murder Bradley was not on trial is prejudicial error.
The attorney requests Bradley’s conviction be vacated and he be granted a new trial based on extensive and emotionally laden testimony and evidence