North Carolina death row inmate Jonathan Hoffman will receive a new trial after a prosecutor admitted yesterday that critical evidence had been withheld from his 1996 trial. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Hoffman is the sixth North Carolina death row inmate in recent years to win a new trial because prosecutors failed to hand over helpful evidence as required by state law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
In a hearing yesterday, Union County prosecutor Kenneth Honeycutt said Hoffman’s lawyers should have been told of a federal immunity deal struck with the state’s star witness. The judge had ordered Honeycutt to disclose all deals. Honeycutt said he learned about the deal two years after Hoffman was put on death row.
By agreeing to a new trial, Honeycutt avoided discussion of more serious allegations. Hoffman’s lawyers have charged that Honeycutt and an assistant knowingly used false evidence at trial and altered documents before submitting them to a judge for review. “We strongly protest and contest [their] other spurious allegations,” Honeycutt said.
Hoffman was convicted of the Nov. 27, 1995, murder of a jewelry store owner near Charlotte.