Inmate sentenced to death in deadly NC prison breakout attempt

The inmate is the first of four tried on charges of killing two COs, a maintenance worker and a sewing plant manager


Gordon Rago
Virginian-Pilot

MANTEO, N.C. — Mikel Brady was sentenced to death Monday just a little over two years after a planned escape from a North Carolina prison ended in four people’s brutal deaths.

Brady, 30, will become the 143rd person waiting to die on death row in North Carolina. The state has not carried out an execution since 2006.

Mikel Brady was sentenced to death for his involvement in a failed prison escape attempt that killed 4 people. (Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Mikel Brady was sentenced to death for his involvement in a failed prison escape attempt that killed 4 people. (Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Surrounded by six police officers, Brady remained quiet and stoic as he learned of his death sentence. Occasionally, he looked over at the jurors.

They deliberated for an hour and five minutes.

Their decision Monday came about a week after they deliberated for just 35 minutes to find him guilty of first-degree murder and other charges related to an escape he planned from Pasquotank Correctional Institution north of Elizabeth City on Oct. 12, 2017.

Brady testified last week to planning the escape, describing how he cobbled together backpacks and supplies from his job in the prison’s sewing plant. Three other inmates — Jonathan Monk, Seth J. Frazier and Wisezah Buckman — have been charged and are awaiting trial.

Brady was in custody at Pasquotank for shooting a North Carolina highway patrolman in 2013. The trooper, Michael Potts, survived.

It is the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state’s history. District Attorney Andrew Womble had been seeking the death penalty.

In closing arguments Monday, Womble described Brady — a native of Vermont — as taking advantage of a position of trust and confidence at Pasquotank. He described Brady’s victims as obstacles to his ultimate goal of freedom.

“They were things to get past,” Womble said, a blue screen illuminating the words “State V Mikel Brady” behind him.

Jurors were showed photos of each victim — a “before Brady” photo of them alive and then an “after Brady” photo of them lying on the prison floor, blood surrounding their bodies.

If the jury chose life in prison, Womble contended, “it will be open season on corrections officers in this state.”

“I understand he’s got one life,” Womble said, “but he took four.”

Brady’s lawyers, Thomas Manning and Jack Warmack, reminded the jury of Brady’s tumultuous childhood. How he was born to a teenage mother and an abusive father. How he suffered from developmental issues from a young age, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. How even after he was given medications, his father did not want Brady to take them.

“As the twig is bent, so goes the tree,” Manning said, quoting a poem to the jurors.

Manning focused on the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. He told jurors they should factor in how the prison, tasked with controlling prisoners and keeping its workers safe, could allow an inmate like Brady to concoct a plan for months to get out.

“It was absolutely easy for him to implement the plan and prepare the plan,” Manning said. “No one was looking.”

He added later: “The blame does not stop with Mikel Brady and his co-defendants.”

Clinton Skinner, the older brother of Veronica Darden, a Pasquotank sewing plant manager who died the day Brady tried escaping, said immediately after hearing the sentence he was “ecstatic.”

“I’m glad it was quick,” Skinner said of the jury’s ruling. “The evidence was too apparent.”

He said it wasn’t difficult to watch the proceedings, including vivid descriptions of how his sister died. His anger, he said, has already subsided and he had to forgive Brady.

Skinner wants justice but said he still doesn’t feel it. With the death sentence, Brady would be put to death by lethal injection versus the pain Skinner’s sister went through the day she died.

“That’s the extent of his pain,” Skinner said.

There are 142 people on death row in North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Public Safety. Only four other states — Pennsylvania, Alabama, Texas and Florida — have more people on death row, according to the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Executions in North Carolina have been stalled by lawsuits over racial bias and lethal injection drugs, Gretchen Engel, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, has told The Pilot.

Six capital cases await a hearing before the state’s Supreme Court to decide if race played a role in jury selection. A study showed the state’s prosecutors struck black jurors at roughly double the rate of others, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Womble told reporters he was pleased with Monday’s outcome, and relieved they were able to get some justice for the families involved.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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