Durham officials have postponed a murder trial amid alleged gang-related threats of violence.
The first-degree murder trial of 17-year old Calvin Nicholson is on hold. He is accused of gunning down an 18-year-old Hillside High School student on Bacon Street in 2005. Police say it was gang-related.
Tuesday’s courthouse melee erupted on the fifth-floor, after key witnesses backed out of the Nicholson trial. They said they were being threatened.
“An incident occurred when information came up that caused people from one courtroom and gang to come to the other courtroom, where members of a rival gang were involved,” said Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.
Durham police are investigating the threats, which are a major challenge in prosecuting gang-related trials.
“You can’t really conduct trials in an atmosphere, where there is intimidation of witnesses, or where there is fear that something might happen,” Nifong said. “The District Attorney’s Office is not equipped to protect witnesses in any situation. There aren’t any local witness protection programs, or anything of that nature. The fact is people are to some extent on their own, in terms of their protection.”
Stormy Ellis is Durham’s gang prosecutor.
“When it comes to trial, everybody’s kind of scrambling and coming up with excuses and that’s when the intimidation tends to start,” she said.
The News & Observer reports,
If Calvin Nicholson wanted into the Bloods gang, he’d have to lean out of the car’s back seat window and fire at “Tide,” a youth he thought to be a Crip.
Nicholson did fire a pistol that day in November, he told police. And the next day, when one of his fellow shooters called to congratulate Nicholson on their successful killing, Nicholson hung up the phone and started crying, he said in a written confession made public at a hearing Thursday.
“The reason I shot the gun at ‘Tide’ was I thought I wanted to join the gang,” Nicholson told a detective. “When I realized I didn’t, it was [too] late.”
Calvin Nicholson is 18 years old.
North Carolinians need to wake up to the growing danger of youth gangs in our area. Just yesterday in juvenile court, I saw four 13—and 14-year-old Hispanic males who were members of the “Little Banditos,” a new set affiliated with SUR-13, the largest Hispanic gang in the Burlington area. Several of the boys already had gang tattoos, including the common set of three dots, inflicted with a red-hot needle, that stands for the words “Mi Vida Loca” (My Crazy Life). They described being “jumped in,” becoming members of the gang through a beating administered by three more senior gang members for five minutes..