Attorneys for Edward Hartman have filed a motion seeking a stay of execution for the convicted killer, arguing that mention of Hartman's homosexuality during his trial created an antigay bias. Heather Wells of Wilmington, N.C., said defense attorneys filed the motion Tuesday in Northampton County superior court. "Eddie Hartman was singled out for the death penalty because he is gay," Wells said at a news conference Wednesday. Hartman, 38, is scheduled to be executed October 3. He was convicted of the 1993 murder of Herman Smith Jr. in the Pinetops community of Northampton County.
District Attorney Valerie Asbell, whose district covers Northampton County, had no comment when reached Wednesday afternoon. Former district attorney David Beard, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment.
Hartman told authorities he consumed 16 cans of beer before he fired a pistol at close range into Smith's head while the man sat in a recliner and watched television. Hartman was living at Smith's home at the time. Court records show that Hartman told a friend Smith was wealthy and carried thousands of dollars in his pocket. He took the man's car and left the body in the chair. He eventually buried the body in a horse stable, leading authorities there after learning he had become a suspect.
During sentencing the defense presented evidence that Hartman had psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and a history of alcohol abuse. At the trial, defense attorneys argued that Hartman had been the victim of sexual abuse, Wells said. She said Beard diminished the impact of the sexual abuse by saying that because Hartman is gay, the sexual abuse was not meaningful. Hartman was sentenced to death for the murder and given 40 years in prison for armed robbery.