A Guilford County woman convicted of first-degree murder after hiring hit men to kill her father will not receive a new trial, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled last month. The court's decision reversed the ruling made two years ago by the N.C. Court of Appeals in the case of Brandi Grainger
, a 25-year-old serving life without parole for her role in the 2008 murder of Paul Grainger.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court's ruling that Grainger was more likely guilty of second-degree murder, which would have carried a sentence of as little as eight years. The Court of Appeals had based its ruling on the fact that Grainger was miles away from the crime scene when her father was shot.
Just after the killing, Grainger communicated with the two hit men by cell phone, and then picked them up from in a parking lot, where they had driven from the crime scene after stealing the victim's car.
Three other defendants—Grainger's mother and the two hit men, Dylan Boston and Phillip Mabe—took plea deals, while Grainger pushed to trial in 2011.
Leading up to oral arguments at the Supreme Court, lawyers for each side argued over the meaning of "constructive presence" to a crime; state attorneys argued that in the digital era, a defendant can participate in a crime remotely, via cell phone.
In their ruling
, however, the Supreme Court justices reversed the lower court's ruling based on the felony murder rule, which automatically makes any killing perpetrated in the act of a felony a first-degree murder. Because Grainger picked the killers up from the stolen getaway car, the state's lawyer argued, she was complicit in a felony act.