Wilmington man found not guilty in 2015 murder case
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) – After 7 years, a verdict has been reached in the trial of a Wilmington man accused of shooting and killing another man.
Antonio Beatty was arrested and charged with first degree murder, in the death of 25-year-old Carlton Whitley.
Whitley was shot and killed in July of 2015 in a parking lot near the corner of Darlington and Metting roads. After seven years of delays, Beatty’s case went to trial last week.
At the end of the week-long trial, the jury reached a not guilty verdict.
“Don’t equate innocence with not guilty findings. Sometimes people are actually innocent, and sometimes they’re not guilty, but they actually did it, and in this case, –what we will say as the district attorney’s office is we do not plan on reopening any investigation into whether someone else was involved. We remain convinced that Mr. Beatty is the person responsible for this death,” said Ben David, New Hanover and Pender Counties District Attorney.
Following the verdict, Beatty has been released.
“Vindicated, he’s always maintained that he didn’t do this, and that he wanted his day in court,” said William Peregoy, Antonio Beatty’s attorney.
According to New Hanover County’s District Attorney Ben David and Beatty’s attorney, William Peregoy, the evidence presented by the state did not prove it’s case against Beatty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It was such a very dark crime scene, that even the crime scene investigators could not identify the other officers that were out there at the parking lot, where this incident supposedly took place, folks would take the witness stand and they would say ‘geez, I really don’t remember that, it was so long ago I don’t recall this, I don’t remember that, and then finally last but not least no one could really identify a reason for it,” said Peregoy.
Peregoy was one of many attorneys to take on Beatty’s case, taking it over last year. Beatty’s changes in legal representation and challenges presented by the pandemic led to the trial’s delay.
David said his office respect’s the jury’s decision, but maintains they believe Beatty is guilty, and continues to extend support to the victim’s family at this time.
“Mr. Beatty’s was the, –by far the oldest case in our criminal justice system here, locally, and we gave it great priority. We really wanted to try it much sooner than it has, and we think that delay is one of the reason’s that we’re in this position now, because when witnesses leave town or memories fade, or –and this has happened not in this case but other’s, witnesses die in the intervening time period, like we’ve had before because of a delay, and that obviously innerves to the benefit of the defendant,” said David.
At this time, the district attorney says there are 62 homicide cases pending in New Hanover County.