A Winston-Salem man convicted of killing NBA star Chris Paul’s grandfather will be eligible for parole in 12 years, a Forsyth County judge ruled Thursday.
The judge also made parole a possibility for another Winston-Salem man convicted of running over two men with his car, killing one of them.
Paul, a former basketball standout at Wake Forest University, now plays for the Houston Rockets.
Rayshawn Denard Banner, now 29, was 16 when a Forsyth County jury convicted him in 2004 of first-degree murder in the death of Paul’s grandfather, Nathaniel Jones, 61, who was found bound, gagged and beaten on Nov. 15, 2002. Paul, then a student at West Forsyth High School, scored 61 points in a basketball game in memory of his grandfather.
Banner, 14 at the time he was charged, was the youngest among five teenagers who were charged, including his brother. Everyone else was 15. Banner and his brother, Nathaniel Cauthen, 30, were the only two sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges cannot give mandatory life sentences to juveniles. In 2016, the court decided that ruling would be applied retroactively.
Subsequently, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring that the no-parole sentences given to juveniles convicted of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule be modified to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years in prison. (Under the felony murder rule, people can be charged with first-degree murder if they are accused of killing someone while committing another felony, such as robbery.)
Lauren Miller, an attorney with N.C. Prisoner Legal Services Inc., filed a motion for appropriate relief on Banner’s behalf based on the new legislation and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. She said the law and the high court’s ruling are clear.
“Banner must be resentenced to life with parole eligibility after 25 years,” Miller said, noting that he is not the same person he was when he was 14.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court granted the motion to resentence Banner to life with the possibility of parole. That means Banner will be eligible for parole in 12 years.
Hall said he hoped Banner has changed from the person who helped beat and kill Nathaniel Jones in 2002.
“That person is not a person we would want in our society,” he said.
In court papers, Forsyth County prosecutors opposed the resentencing. Assistant District Attorney Penn Broyhill said Banner should be locked away for life without the possibility of parole. Nathaniel Jones was a beloved member of the Winston-Salem community, he said.
“It’s frustrating that we have been given no opportunity to argue against it,” Broyhill said of the resentencing.
Hall said the law is clear.
“We are a nation of laws, not of men,” he said.
Hall also resentenced Jesus Armando Andrade who was 17 when prosecutors say he struck Brad Steele with a car at a speed exceeding 40 mph and that he had also tried to kill Darren Brown, a fellow student at Glenn High School.
The incident happened in the parking lot of a grocery store off Waughtown Street on Aug. 12, 2005.
Andrade was also convicted of first-degree murder based on the felony murder rule, this time because he was alleged to have tried to kill someone else.
Beth McNeill, also an attorney with N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, filed a motion for appropriate relief in Andrade’s case.
Hall resentenced Andrade to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years.