North Carolina’s highest court declined Friday to review a lower court’s decision to uphold the conviction of a Winston-Salem man accused of fatally shooting an Ardmore woman after he and two other men broke into her house in 2013.
After a trial in September 2016, a Forsyth County jury found Anthony Vinh Nguyen, 27, guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and first-degree burglary. Forsyth County prosecutors pursued the death penalty against Nguyen, but the jury recommended that Nguyen get life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Nguyen’s attorneys filed an appeal with the N.C. Court of Appeals, arguing, among other things, that Forsyth County prosecutors sought to undermine Nguyen’s testimony at trial by emphasizing that Nguyen waited until trial to give an alibi.
At trial, Forsyth County prosecutors said Nguyen and two other men — Daniel Aaron Benson and Steven George Assimos — broke into the home of Shelia Pace Gooden, 43, at 700 Magnolia St. in the Ardmore neighborhood. They broke into the house at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2013.
Nguyen entered first and shot Gooden in the right leg with a .380-caliber semi-automatic gun, and Benson and Assimos ransacked the house, looking for drugs and money, and stole a $200 flat-screen TV, according to testimony.
Prosecutors said the three men had planned to rob Gooden’s son, Cody Prince, who also lived at the house. Prince had gotten into a fight with Benson days before the incident. Benson alleged that Prince swung a machete at him.
Just before Nguyen left the house, he shot Gooden twice in the head, prosecutors said.
Nguyen testified that he drove Benson and Assimos to the house and then went to a convenience store up the road. When he got back, Benson and Assimos put the TV in the car and Nguyen said he didn’t find out that Gooden had been shot to death until later.
Nguyen’s attorneys argued that it was improper to use Nguyen’s constitutional right to remain silent against him and argue to the jury that his testimony is false.
The appeals court rejected Nguyen’s arguments and said that Nguyen received a fair trial.
Nguyen’s attorneys filed a petition for discretionary review, but on Friday, the N.C. Supreme Court declined to grant the petition.
After Nguyen’s trial, Assimos and Benson both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Assimos was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Benson was sentenced to a maximum of about 11 years in prison.