Lowery convicted of second-degree murder

Published 10:18 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

It took a Davie County jury less than two hours to convict a Salisbury man of second-degree murder last week.

That includes electing a foreman, getting instructions from the judge and listening to a call the suspect made from the jail – twice.

Judge Joseph N. Crosswhite sentenced Carlos Lowery, 32, of Salisbury, to 28-35 years in prison for the Oct. 25, 2016 murder of Terry Smoot.

The jurors appeared to focus on a phone call Lowery made from jail to his girlfriend. Lowery was soft spoken and mumbled some in the phone call, making it difficult to understand. Jurors asked if there was a transcript of the call. There was not, so it was played again. After a lunch break, the jurors asked to hear a part of the 16:25 long call again. They came back with the verdict less than 30 minutes later.

Lowery, who had showed no or little emotion throughout the trial, spoke just before the judge handed the sentence.

“I didn’t do this, your honor,” he said. “I intend to appeal this whole thing.”

Crosswhite said a new public defender would be appointed to handle the appeal.

Lowery spoke to his family and friends, several of whom had gathered in the courtroom. “This is just a stepping stone. I’ve never been that person.”

Assistant District Attorneys Alan Martin and Kaitlyn Jones handled the prosecution. Testimony was heard from the one witness who found Smoot beaten up on the railroad tracks on Oct. 25, 2016, officers and EMTs on the scene, and a security officer and pathologist from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where Smoot was taken by Davie EMS. He died several hours after being taken to the hospital.

Edgar Pozo was the first to testify, who said he was coming home from work when he encountered Smoot, whom he called a friend. Pozo walked to work, and crossed the railroad tracks daily.

On Oct. 25, 2016, Pozo, who had suffered a stroke since the incident, said he “heard somebody hollering ‘Ed’.”

“I said ‘what’s wrong, Lip (Smoot’s nickname),’ and he said ‘Red (Lowery’s nickname) beat me up. Go tell my dad, my brother, to come and get me.’ He was all beat up. He was spitting blood. He was talking so I didn’t think it was that bad.”

Pozo testified he went to Smoot’s house and told his father, then went to his own house nearby to let his dogs out. Several minutes later, he said he noticed noone had gone to help Smoot so he went back to the railroad tracks. Smoot was sitting in the same tri-pod position, with his head toward his knees. “As soon as he put weight on his feet, he screamed and fell down,” Pozo said. That’s when he called 911.

Pozo testified that Smoot was the neighborhood runner and that Lowery sold crack cocaine. “If you needed something, he (Smoot) would get it – crack, weed, beer. I would give him money and he woul go get it for me. He was that kind of person.

“Red didn’t want a lot of people over there at his house. Red didn’t want you to come to his house … so there wouldn’t be so much traffic there.”

The Mocksville police officers who went to the scene – Blake Spillman, Chris Hefner and Brian Nichols – all said that Smoot named his attacker at the scene.

Lowery’s attorney, Jerry Jordan, focused the defense on discrepencies in times and reports filed by Mocksville police and Davie EMS. More than once, the court allowed times to be changed or a page added to evidence. Some of the evidence was not collected until the next day, because as officers testified, they were on private property and thought it was a simple assault case.

The officers each described Smoot as they had arrived.

Spillman said he recognized the victim as Smoot. “He said ‘Carlos Lowery … Red beat me up’.”

Hefner testified that two officers and an EMT were there when he arrived. “He (Smoot) did not move much at all. He stayed in the same position. The only thing I could hear him say was ‘Carlos Lowery’.”

Nichols, a detective at the time, said most officers knew Smoot, who was always walking around the community. He asked what happened, and Smoot said that Carlos Lowery had beaten him up. Smoot, he said, was not his normally animated self. He asked Smoot again in the ambulance who had beaten him, and he gave the same name.

Nichols said that during a canvass of the neighborhood, he came upon Lowery and Norris Hudson at a house, and both denied knowing who Lowery was. Hudson, who is in prison on unrelated charges, did not testify.

On Oct. 25, 2016 Smoot had gone to the Soda Shoppe, a nearby convenience store, and video surveillance had him leaving the store with a pack of cigarettes just after 3 p.m. Lowery’s brother testified that Smoot had brought the cigarettes to Lowery while they were outside his house in a car, smoking marijuana. He was with his brother until about 3:45 p.m. Pozo had found Smoot just after 4:30 p.m.

Mocksville Police Major Koula Black testified she was working undercover at that time, and knew Smoot as an addict and street level “runner.” Jordan questioned her about the evidence, why there were no tests for fingerprints or DNA, and why it wasn’t all collected. She said she wasn’t there, so she couldn’t provide an answer.

Jordan made a motion for the case to be dismissed based on insufficient evidence, especially on the charge of robbery. “You can’t steal something from a dead man who’s not there,” Jordan said.

His motion was denied.

In closing arguments, Jordan said the case just didn’t make sense, especially the times things were recorded as happening.

He started with Pozo, who testified that Smoot had yelled at him when all others at the scene said they had to get close to hear Smoot because he was having trouble talking.

He talked about the times Pozo testified he saw Smoot, and mentioned other testimony. “The window of opportunity for Mr. Lowery to beat Mr. Smoot is not there,” Jordan said. He mentioned Smoot’s cell phone, which was supposedly at the hospital, but wasn’t when officers retrived his belongings three months later. “Does that make any sense?”

“Every time they (prosecution) had issues, they took a break and fixed it,” he said. “We don’t have to prove anything. It just doesn’t make any sense. You have a lot more questions than answers.”

Jordan said it was a tragedy that Smoot suffered such a violent death, but questioned police for not collecting evidence. “There are a lot of things wrong with this case. There’s a lot of problems. The Mocksville Police Department failed to conduct a proper investigation. Mr. Lowery is not guilty.”

“The law can have fancy words, but it’s still grounded on common sense,” Martin said. “The assault is 100 percent a proximate cause of his death. If he hadn’t been assaulted so horribly that his organs were ripped from the circulatory system, the man would not have died. We may have had hatred, ill will or spite, but we don’t have to prove that.”

Martin said that motive is permissable but not essential. “You don’t have to answer, ‘Why’?”

He said that Pozo’s testimony was believable. “He was earnest in the way he tried to answer questions. You decide if he was telling the truth.”

Beyond a reasonable doubt is not an impossible standard, Martin said. “It’s what you believe is true in your heart. You will convict Carlos Lowery of murder.”

Martin, the prosecutor, sat on his desk, in the tripod position as Smoot was found, when giving his closing argument.

He asked the jury to guess how far it is from the front of the courtroom to the back, and to guess how long someone had testified. They probably would come up with different numbers, as Pozo had done. “That’s how testimony works. Pozo’s not lying because he got the distance wrong, the time wrong. That’s consistent with other believable evidence.

“You have heard the testimony. You decide if we ‘fixed’ things. What you have is a lot of witnesses who gave you straightforward testimony on what happened to Terry Smoot.

“The state presented overwhelming, uncontested evidence that Terry Smoot was murdered. The state has presented uncontradicted evidence … that Terry Smoot, hunkered over and bleeding … told every person who asked him who done it.”

He asked the judge for a severe sentence. “You have a man whose mouth has been busted, has been hit in the head, beat all over his body. His injuries were vicious, repeated, numerous and excessive.”

Prior convictions of assault prove Lowery can’t control his temper, Martin said. “Mr. Lowery just couldn’t control himself. The only way to make the community safe is to incarcerate him.”