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Stroupe trial postponed until May

A judge agreed on Tuesday to postpone the capital murder trial of Phillip Michael Stroupe II for three months to give prosecutors and defense attorneys more time to review new evidence.


Judge W. Robert Bell of Mecklenburg County granted the continuance after Stroupe's defense team said it needed more time to review evidence both sides had recently received, court officials said. The trial is now set for May 6. Bell denied defense motions asking the court to disqualify the district attorney’s office because it had recently hired an attorney who had represented Stroupe’s father.
Bell granted a safe-keeping order based on a request from District Attorney Greg Newman to transfer Stroupe back to the state prison in Raleigh. The defendant, charged with the murder of Thomas A. “Tommy” Bryson in July 2017, had been returned to Henderson County to prepare for trial.
In his request for more time, Public Defender Paul Welch repeated his earlier arguments that the defense needed more time to prepare to defend a client on trial for his life. The time constraints that existed last May remain, Welch said.
A mitigation specialist assigned to the case by the state Capital Defender said last May that she would need 18 months to complete the amount of work needed for “an effective mitigation investigation.” Since last May, some tasks have been completed and some remain, she said in a statement filed with Welch’s motion, and some of what she’s found has led to the need for follow-ups such as interviews and records requests.
Welch also said the federal government shutdown has delayed the government’s response to the defense’s Freedom of Information request for sensor data from a federally owned helicopter involved in the manhunt for Stroupe.
The defense “is informed and believes” that the data, “if and when received, will indicate the searchers knew or should have known where Mr. Stroupe could be located” well before he abducted Bryson and failed to act on the information.
The public defender also filed a motion asking Judge Bell to disqualify Newman from prosecuting the case because an attorney Newman hired had represented Stroupe’s father, Phillip Michael Stroupe Sr., while in private practice.
Stroupe II and his defense attorneys believe the attorney, Jason Hayes, “acquired confidential information” from the senior Stroupe about the murder defendant, Welch said. Newman said lawyers know they can’t share information obtained under the attorney-client privilege. “He certainly would not and we would not expect him to,” he said.