Justin Merritt declines to testify in Andy Banks murder trial, closing arguments set to begin Friday

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Thursday, December 1, 2022
Justin Merritt declines to testify in Andy Banks murder trial
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Justin Merritt declined to testify in his own defense Thursday in the Andy Banks murder trial. Closing arguments are set to begin Friday.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Justin Merritt declined to testify in his own defense Thursday in the Andy Banks murder trial. Closing arguments are set to begin Friday.

Thursday was the third day of testimony in the case. It included prosecutors introducing a series of text messages between Andy Banks and Justin Merritt, as they worked to establish a timeline in their case.

Banks and Merritt planned to meet at The Village parking lot at 1:00 on Saturday, September 12th to take a look at a Range Rover that Banks was attempting to sell.

At 1:48 PM on September 12th, Merritt texted Banks that he was about ten minutes away, which Banks acknowledged in a response.

SEE ALSO: Prosecutors show pictures of vehicle, Andy Banks' jacket, during 2nd day of testimony

The following text messages are sent from Merritt to Banks at 3:14, with Merritt texting, "Thanks for letting me check out the range again man. Sorry we couldn't agree on a price. I'll send you the guy I was telling you about, info when I get back."

Investigators believe Merritt had already shot Banks at this time, and the text was sent as an attempt at a cover-up.

Raleigh Police Homicide Detective Terry Jackson analyzed a series of photographs of Banks' body and the location it was found in.

"In this area here, there are holes in the victims' chest that appear to me to be from gunshot wounds," said Jackson.

He also commented on what Banks was wearing at the time.

SEE ALSO: Defense argues man accused of killing Andy Banks in 2020 did not premeditate the murder

"Looking at this, it looked to me like the victim had been dragged by the feet and so that caused the rolling up of the shirt," Jackson explained.

Later in the morning, Jackson displayed Banks' red jacket to the court, showing off holes believed to be caused by bullets.

"The darkening around the holes in this black, splotchy speckling around each hole, is what made me believe these were relatively close contact gun shots," said Jackson.

Jackson pointed to signs of decomposition.

"The insect activity is high, and it's nearly everywhere on the upper torso and head of the victim. And that would just indicate again the victim being exposed to element for some time," said Jackson, noting the presence of insects could add to the decomposition.

His description of the area was in-line with previous testimony from CCBI Investigator Suzanna Stirewalt and Raleigh Police Detective Gory Mendez, noting it was a brushy area near an unpaved road and a metal gate.

"I found a piece of grey metal inside his head when I opened it consistent with a fragment of bullet," said Dr. Amy Tharp, the Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia, who conducted Banks' autopsy.

She agreed with Det. Jackson's assessment that Banks' body was decomposing when it was found.

"You can see the edge here is a little more irregular, possibly caused the bullet grazing along the base of the skull, but either way a bullet grazed against this piece of the skull just along the ear area," Tharp explained.

During its opening statement Tuesday, Merritt's defense acknowledged evidence will show that Merritt shot Banks, but said the state needed to meet its burden of proof for the entirety of their charges, including evidence of premeditation and deliberation.

The trial is still underway Thursday. ABC11's Michael Perchick is in the courtroom and will continue to update this article with details from the trial.

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