BEAUFORT — Defendant Jhaden Davis sat quietly in a cold and largely empty courtroom Wednesday morning as his defense, the prosecution and Judge W. Douglas Parsons worked through the details of his upcoming double murder case.
Jury selection is set to begin in the trial Monday, July 17, when Mr. Davis faces two counts of first-degree murder in the June 2012 slaying of Albert and Duane Correll of Beaufort.
If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“I would ask that … we could start testimony no earlier than Thursday, the 20th at 9:30 a.m.,” Assistant District Attorney David Spence, the state’s prosecutor, requested this week as Judge Parsons heard pretrial motions in County Superior Court.
In addition to the murder charges, Mr. Davis, 26, faces two other counts, one for armed robbery and one for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
The case stems from a June 2, 2012, incident that left Albert Correll, 20, and his father, Duane Correll, 50, dead after they were gunned down outside their home off Taylor Farm Road.
Less than two weeks later, authorities arrested three men in connection with the killings – Mr. Davis, then 21 and a U.S. Navy Corpsman; Joseph Pirrotta, then 24 and recently dishonorably discharged from the Navy; and Brandon Smallwood, then 23 and a Navy Corpsman assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Lejeune.
Mr. Spence declined to comment Wednesday on the motive in the slayings, but immediately following the murders in 2012, investigators said they believed a previous altercation over money led to the double homicide.
At the time, detectives said the evidence indicated the suspects waited for the Corrells at their home, intending to rob Albert, who was returning from a trip to Walmart in Morehead City.
They believed Mr. Davis and Albert Correll were familiar with one another.
More than five years after the incident, Mr. Davis will finally have his day in court next month.
In June 2015, a retired Marine recovered a .40-caliber handgun matching the murder weapon’s description while diving off Emerald Isle and turned it over to authorities.
The serial number on the weapon had been filed off, but in pretrial motions Wednesday, Mr. Spence told Judge Parsons ballistics had confirmed the weapon was used in the Correll slayings.
At least one official with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which aided in the investigation, is set to testify to that effect, the prosecutor confirmed.
Mr. Pirrotta, who took a plea, has become a witness for the state and is expected to testify as well during Mr. Davis’ trial, along with a potential 50 to 60 other witnesses called on by the state.
The third man, Mr. Smallwood, faces lesser charges of accessory after the fact and has yet to resolve his case.
Mr. Davis’ case will go to jury trial where he faces the possibility of life without parole on both murder charges.
He seemed unruffled Wednesday in superior court, observing the proceedings and occasionally consulting with his attorney, Richard McNeil.
Mr. McNeil could not be reached for comment on the case by presstime.
Judge Parsons opted to hold off granting a motion requested by Mr. Spence to immediately suspend Mr. Davis’ phone privileges to a specific list of call recipients.
The assistant district attorney said his office found evidence Mr. Davis has allegedly been calling witnesses and others outside the Carteret County detention center, sometimes in three-way calls.
“At this time, when we have witnesses under subpoena, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the defendant to be in contact with those people,” Mr. Spence told the judge.
He said the conversations were not threatening, but “rambling,” and alleged Mr. Davis had called some witnesses multiple times.
“They also have no point, except to say ‘I’m still here, I still know about you,’ ” the prosecutor said.
Additionally, Mr. Davis was accused of asking other parties to contact witnesses on his behalf.
The defense objected and Judge Parsons held the motion, saying he did not have adequate information to rule on suspending Mr. Davis’ phone privileges.
Motions requested from the defense Wednesday largely pertained to ensuring information sharing between his office and the state, establishing a questionnaire for potential jurors and possibly sequestering witnesses.
Both attorneys said they expect jury selection to last two to three days, with the trial beginning immediately after and running several weeks.
Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.