Court of Appeals orders new trial for Raleigh homeowner Chad Copley convicted of killing 20-year-old in 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Court of Appeals granted a new trial for Chad Copley, the Raleigh homeowner convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a young man attending a party in Copley's North Raleigh neighborhood.

Copley, 41, was serving a life sentence handed down by a Wake County jury in February of 2018 for the murder of Kouren Thomas.

The 20-year-old was shot to death in the Neuse Crossings neighborhood in August of 2016.

Thomas' mother told ABC11 on Tuesday that the ruling felt like another blow.

"My son's just being killed over and over and over again," Simone Butler-Thomas said.

Evidence showed Copley fired a shotgun from inside the garage of his house hitting Thomas who was heading home from a party of about 50 people two doors down from Copley's home.

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas


Copley said in a 911 call that he fired a "warning shot" after yelling at the crowd to "please leave the premises."

He used the term "hoodlums" in the call to describe the crowd outside his home.

The Court of Appeals cited the state's final argument to jurors in its decision to overturn the conviction.

"The prosecutor asserted in his closing argument: 'They presented the evidence that he's scared of these black males.' Nothing in the evidence presented to the jury tends to support this assertion in the prosecutor's argument that Defendant feared or bore racial hatred towards the individuals outside of his home because they were black. The only evidence submitted to the jury regarding race was Defendant's testimony that the members of the group outside his house had told him to 'go inside, white boy,' after he had raised his bedroom window and shouted at them to quiet down shortly before 12:50 a.m. Race was irrelevant to Defendant's case," NC Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson wrote in the opinion.

You can read the entire opinion here.

Butler-Thomas disagrees with the decision.

"The evidence was all there," she said. "Regardless of whether the prosecutor mentioned that it was race related, I think it was race related, but beyond all of that, everything else that he did he still needs to be in jail for life with no parole."

"Brad Polk and I are pleased that the Court of Appeals has taken a hard look at the way this case was tried and we wholeheartedly agree with the court's thoughtful and well-reasoned decision," Copley's attorney Raymond Tarlton said in a statement to ABC11.

"My whole day is consumed about thinking about my child," Butler-Thomas told ABC11. "You know and to think about this man he's know, he's still living. I'd rather trade places. Let me have my son in jail for life and let me put my hand against the glass to know he's still living versus...I've got an urn that I have to kiss every morning."

It's not clear at this point if the state will appeal the decision to the NC Supreme Court. The state has a right to do that because one of the judges--Judge John Arrowood--on the three-judge panel dissented.

Judge Donna Stroud concurred with Tyson's decision.


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Video in this article is from a previous update to this case.
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