NEWTON, N.C. – On Thursday much of the court proceedings in the Willie Grimes innocence hearing were done in closed session. The state wanted to call Albert Turner as its first witness to testify in Grimes’ conviction of the 1987 rape of an elderly Hickory woman.
But even after granting Turner immunity for his testimony in the 1987 rape, Turner’s lawyers advised him not to speak on the grounds that his testimony could incriminate him in another rape case.
The State Bureau of Investigation arrested Turner in the rape of a 9-year-old Catawba County girl. His lawyer said that because the same district attorney would be prosecuting that case, it would not be in his best interest to speak at Grimes' hearing.
Retired Hickory detective Stee Hunt did testify during the afternoon. He told the panel of three judges that despite the fact that he was the lead investigator in the elderly rape case, he never spoke to the victim about the suspect's description.
Hunt also said that he never spoke to the witnesses who said that they were with Willie Grimes when the rape occurred. At one point Hunt, who is now retired, said that he knew Albert Turner since they were kids. He said he also knew Turner's brother who worked at the Hickory Police Department.
During cross examination he was asked about the first mug shot sheet that had Albert Turner's name as the only one written down. He was asked if this was a common practice that the department did when they had a suspect.
Hunt said yes, but he could not explain why a fingerprint found at the scene of the crime was tested and found not to match Grimes but not tested to see who it matched.
Hunt also said that possible evidence at the crime scene was not collected and that he threw away an apple that he found a block away from the scene, despite hearing that the rape suspect left the scene eating fruit taken from the victim's house.
Closing arguments resume Friday morning and the judges may make a ruling by the end of the day.