Greensboro Murder Case Sentence Relief

In Greensboro Murder Case Sentence Relief by GWAO

Greensboro murder case sentence relief was granted by the outgoing Governor.

In 2002, Janet Danahey was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.  Danahey had set fire to a couch as a prank against her ex-boyfriend, a fire that got out of control and burned the apartment complex to the ground.  Four people were killed in that fire.

As a prosecutor at the time, this author witnessed the aftermath firsthand through the lens of the District Attorney’s Office.  District Attorney Stuart Albright, now the Honorable Judge Albright, Superior Court Judge, and Chief Assistant DA Howard Neumann, prosecuted the case.  Greensboro defense attorneys debated on whether the case should be taken to trial or not, just as the DA Office debated whether to seek the death penalty for the reckless prank that turned deadly.  Ultimately, the death penalty was an option, and by this authors memory of the sentencing hearing, the plea to life without parole was entered because of the felony murder law.

The felony murder law is frustrating to Greensboro trial lawyers.  It essentially means that if someone dies during the commission of a felony, then the jury can convict the defendant of first degree murder.  In this case, the arson charge was the unavoidable felony that could have led to the triggering of this rule, and therefore risk the death penalty for the 23 year old defendant.

Felony murder, according to the North Carolina General Statutes, is defined by N.C.G.S. 14-17 as a murder “which shall be committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any arson, rape or a sex offense, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, or other felony committed or attempted with the use of a deadly weapon shall be deemed to be murder in the first degree, a Class A felony, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment in the State’s prison for life without parole…”

The conviction relief does not grant release.  It only allows a possibility of parole in twelve years.

The community is divided on whether this is the best option, or whether Danahey should have to spend the time in prison.  Many people feel the punishment did not fit the crime, where others felt that the death of four individuals could not be punished enough.  The decisions of the District Attorney and the Greensboro criminal trial lawyers representing her are easy to look back on and debate, but at the time, we must remember emotions on both sides were high, and the law created boundaries for both sides of attorneys.  Ultimately, Danahey has been a model prisoner, according the Department of Adult Corrections.  We can speculate that no punishment by the courts can be as hard on Danahey as her own conscious, just as it cannot bring back the four lives lost that evening.

This author, a Greensboro former prosecutor now top rated defense attorney was present at the original sentencing hearing.  It was a cyclone of emotion for everyone.

Many years are left on the sentence, and many debates will continue to occur.  Greensboro’s best defense attorneys, Garrett, Walker, Aycoth and Olson, will watch closely this and every available option for conviction relief.