Guy Tobias LeGrande
The State of North Carolina has scheduled Guy LeGrande, a mentally ill, African-American man who represented himself before an all-white jury wearing a Superman T-shirt, to die on December 1, 2006.
LeGrande’s prosecutor, Kenneth Honeycutt, has celebrated death sentences won by giving his staff lapel pins in the shape of a noose. This case exemplifies the racism and disproportionality of the death penalty system, and the problems of the mentally ill being sentenced to death.
A resolution passed on October 10, 2006 by the Stanly County Branch of the NAACP states “race permeated District Attorney Kenneth Honeycutt’s every decision in death penalty cases – from choosing which co-defendant got a life-saving plea, choosing which members of the community sat in judgment on the jury and choosing to award staff with a lynching symbol after people of color were given death sentences by these all-white juries.”
Guy Tobias LeGrande was sentenced to death in 1996 in Stanly County for the murder of Ellen Munford. Tommy Munford, Ms. Munford’s estranged husband, plotted to kill his wife for the insurance proceeds and, after failing to convince another man to do the killing, he recruited LeGrande to help him.
Munford had previously been arrested several times for harassing and assaulting his wife and her boyfriend. Munford told numerous people he wanted to “do in” his wife. He bought a gun and ammunition and gave them to LeGrande.
On the day of the murder, Munford arranged to take his and Ms. Munford’s two children to the beach; when he picked up the children, he dropped LeGrande off in the woods by the house. After hours of sitting in the woods, LeGrande entered the house and shot Ms. Munford.
LeGrande, who is black, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The victim, Ms. Munford, was also white.
Tommy Munford, who is white, was allowed to plead to second-degree murder and received a life sentence after testifying against LeGrande.
Munford referred to LeGrande as “a nigger from Wadesboro,” when talking to Greg Laton, the man whom he had unsuccessfully tried to solicit to commit the murder. The gun that Munford gave to LeGrande for the murder was given to Munford by Laton, who knew exactly why Munford wanted it. Laton was never charged in connection with the conspiracy.
In the NC Supreme Court opinion in LeGrande’s case, Chief Justice Burley Mitchell called LeGrande’s case “very similar” to that of Robert Bacon. Bacon was duped into killing his white girlfriend’s white husband. The victim’s wife, who clearly was the mastermind, was sentenced to life. Bacon was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Ultimately, Bacon was granted clemency based on issues of racial bias and the unequal treatment of the two co-defendants.
LeGrande was prosecuted by then District Attorney Ken Honeycutt. Honeycutt gained notoriety for wearing a gold lapel pin shaped like a noose, and for awarding the nooses to assistant district attorneys who won death penalty cases to “boost morale.”
Honeycutt currently is being investigated for hiding key evidence in a death penalty case. That case and another capital case he prosecuted were both overturned because he withheld critical evidence.
LeGrande fired his court-appointed attorneys and was permitted to represent himself at trial. The judge appointed “standby counsel” who sat in the courtroom, but were not allowed to do anything without LeGrande’s permission.
Standby counsel filed a motion suggesting that LeGrande was severely mentally ill and not competent to represent himself, but they were not allowed to be heard. They wanted, but were not allowed, to tell the court that LeGrande believed that he was receiving signals from Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather over the television, that he suffered from delusions of grandeur and extreme mood swings, and that he believed he would receive a large monetary settlement after his acquittal. The judge asked LeGrande, who was wearing a Superman t-shirt, if he wanted him to disregard the motion; LeGrande’s response was to tear the document in half. The judge allowed the trial to proceed.
At one point in the trial, the judge was moved to comment on LeGrande’s increasing agitation and urged him to take time to calm himself. LeGrande’s testimony and arguments culminated in incoherent ramblings, and the jury recommended a sentence of death.
After the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and death sentence, LeGrande continued to represent himself, and refused to properly preserve his legal issues in state court because he did not trust the state of North Carolina, and believed he would win in federal court.
After the death sentence, experts evaluated LeGrande and concluded that he suffers from psychosis, specifically, a delusional disorder with grandiose and persecutory delusions. His delusions make it impossible for him to participate in a meaningful way in the defense of his life. His thinking is very disorganized and rambling.
LeGrande has refused to see his lawyers for several years. In prior conversations with his counsel, he has said that he can see other people’s thoughts and true desires. He also obsessively discusses the prospects for settling his multi-billion dollar lawsuits against various government agencies. In one conversation, LeGrande insisted he could see a "circle of smoke" around his lawyer’s head.
After filing scores of frivolous documents in court on his own, a federal judge finally appointed two lawyers to represent him. But the lawyers had little to present in federal court since courts will not hear issues that are not first raised properly in state court. Guy LeGrande’s fate is now in the hands of Governor Mike Easley, who can grant or deny clemency.
The background information on this case was prepared by Guy LeGrande’s legal defense team.