It’s said that one ought not speak ill of the dead.
Generally speaking, that’s a good policy. No one should be judged over one act. A life, no matter how short, is a series of events and interactions — some good, some bad and plenty somewhere in the middle. Everybody has a mother or grandfather who loves them.
Still, some things just can’t be ignored. And that brings us to the killing of 31-year-old Dorrell Queshane Brayboy, who was stabbed to death Wednesday in broad daylight in front of a Food Lion. His girlfriend and children saw the whole thing.
As shocking as that is, though, it’s an act Brayboy committed as a 15-year-old in November 2002 that’s sure to dominate conversation this week.
Brayboy, along with four others, was convicted of murder.
The victim was Nathaniel Frederick Jones — the grandfather of Chris Paul, NBA superstar, Olympic gold medalist and local hero.
‘Leave me alone’
The file on Brayboy kept at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice is literally as thick as a book. Page upon page in the thick yellow binder spells out in meticulous detail every motion, plea offer, trial and appeal.
It is not pleasant reading.
Jones was found the evening of Nov. 15, 2002, lying next to his car in his carport. He’d been beaten and bound with electrical tape.
An eyewitness, a then-16-year-old girl, testified that she picked up five teenage boys in her car. They were later identified as Rayshawn Banner, Nathaniel Cauthen, Jermal Tolliver, Christopher Bryant and Brayboy. All were 15 except for Banner, who was 14.
The file describes them as “boys,” but that rings hollow when laid next to the killing. According to a trial transcript used by the N.C. Court of Appeals, the young men had been discussing “jacking someone up” — robbing somebody — for more than a week.
That someone was Nathaniel Jones, a retired service-station owner.
The girl testified that she heard what sounded like a beating. Worse, she described a voice saying “Stop, leave me alone.”
It didn’t take long for police to make arrests. Cauthen and Banner were convicted of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in August 2004 and sentenced to life without parole. A court later ruled that they should be allowed a shot at parole due to their age.
The other three defendants took another path. Because they were considered juveniles, a District Court judge had to decide whether they should be tried and punished as adults.
On that occasion, all three were bound over. Tolliver, Bryant and Brayboy rejected an offer by prosecutors to drop the first-degree murder charge in exchange for pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
They rolled the dice. A Forsyth County jury found all three guilty and they were sentenced to between 157 months and 198 months for second-degree murder and 13 to 16 months for common-law robbery.
And of course, they appealed. Brayboy, through his lawyers, tried saying that he made up his confession because “police told him he could go home that night if he admitted to being the lookout.”
Jones’ murder drew widespread attention because of his grandson. Paul was nationally known as a standout player at West Forsyth High School, and he scored 61 points in a game in memory of Jones.
A proud grandfather and revered figure, Jones was beaten to death by a mob of teenagers. And for what? A few dollars.
In his appeal, Brayboy also maintained that the jury shouldn’t have been allowed to hear his statement to detectives in which he admitted his involvement and named names of the others.
His mother, the Court of Appeals found, was aware that he was being questioned and she “urged the defendant to tell the truth.”
Judge Michael Helms of Forsyth Superior Court allowed the jury to hear Brayboy’s statement and noted that he had considered, along with his age and experience with police, “his lack of demonstrated fear or intimidation of the officers or their questions.”
After his appeal was denied in January 2007, Brayboy served his sentence. According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, he was released in December 2017 after having served about 15 years in jail and prison.
He did his time and was given a second chance. Fair enough.
We’ll find out in coming days what he made of that chance as detectives work to find the man who stabbed him to death in front of his girlfriend and two children.
Let’s hope for those kids’ sake that Brayboy was a good father and they’ll have good and lasting memories of him.
Not speaking ill of the dead is, in most cases, the polite thing. But some things cannot be ignored. Forgiven maybe. Forgotten, no.