The death penalty or life in prison.
It’s what at stake for two brothers if they’re convicted for the murder of Wake County Deputy Ned Byrd.
A grand jury indicted Arturo Marin-Sotelo and his brother Alder Alfonso Marin Sotelo on first-degree murder charges in the case.
Arturo Marin-Sotelo, who was charged first, is due to appear in court again on September 8.
Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo was not initially charged with murder until Tuesday. He will be transferred to Wake County to have a first court appearance.
Authorities were holding Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo in the Forsyth County Jail on a federal detainer.
On Tuesday, court documents showed at least 12 of the 18 jurors voted for a true bill in both cases, handing down indictments that allow the case against the men to go forward.
Nearly two weeks since Deputy Byrd was shot and killed, the road where it happened is still blocked off. It’s also where Byrd’s uncle Walter Penney spent most of his day of reflection on Tuesday.
Penney approves of the decision by the grand jury to move forward with charges He called Tuesday’s development “awesome” and plans to attend the court proceedings.
“Anything positive like that that comes down, it’s just a blessing,” Penney said. “As far as [a] trial goes, hopefully, it’s sooner than later.”
Last week, after Arturo Marin-Sotelo’s arrest, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she anticipated authorities would charge someone else with killing Byrd, who was found shot on Aug. 11 in southeastern Raleigh.
Freeman said she will decide whether to seek the death penalty in 90 days.
Also, Wake County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Walter Adams said on Aug. 18 that authorities expect to make more arrests in the case.
The grand jury’s process
Longtime WRAL News crime reporter and host of WRAL’s “What Remains” true-crime podcast Amanda Lamb explained the grand jury’s process.
The grand jury is made up of 18 people, all Wake County residents. Jurors serve up to 18 months, working for two days per week every other week, Lamb said.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch, which oversees the courts, sets rules for how jurors are selected, who is eligible, how a juror can be exempt from service and the penalties for those who fail to show up when called.
A jury summons is an official court summons. The court could hold you in contempt and can also impose a $50 fine for each time anyone fails to appear.
Each grand jury is given a list of cases, and they hear evidence in each one until the list is complete.
“[The grand jury looks] at what anyone looks at when they charge someone. They look at probable cause,” Lamb said. “So, the state is going to be able to bring evidence, they’re going to be able to bring witnesses, and the grand jury can even ask for more witnesses if they feel like they need additional information.”
Lamb also explained why the case went before a grand jury after Arturo Marin-Sotelo had already been charged.
“In North Carolina, all felony cases have to go before a grand jury, Lamb said. “That’s the law, but what’s also really important about this process is it’s a checks and balances system, basically.
“We’re able to say, ‘Yes, this is definitely a case that needs to move forward in the system.’ So, it helps the [district attorney] in that case really understand, ‘Yes, we have a strong case.’”
In a regular criminal trial, the jury is made up of 12 jurors, and their determination must be unanimous if they find a defendant guilty.
However, Lamb explained, a grand jury’s decision to indict does not have to be unanimous.
“You have 18 people and only 12 people have to vote for what they call a true bill, which is an indictment,” Lamb said.
The grand jury’s process is done in private.
“The reason it’s private is because there’s always a chance that someone won’t be indicted, and so they want to keep confidentiality, so that person doesn’t have all of this information shared publicly if they’re not indicted,” Lamb said. “If there is an indictment, that becomes a public record.”