By DEUCE NIVEN
A decision on who should be sheriff in Columbus County won’t be made by a Pender County jury, with what had been expected to be a distant jury trial now scheduled for a bench trial in Whiteville next week.
Columbus County Clerk of Court Jess Hill said Tuesday that Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley of Wake County will preside over the bench trial starting at 10 a.m. Monday, and hear pre-trial motions beginning at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, through his attorneys, asked for a jury trial in a lawsuit filed in January, alleging that Jody Greene improperly was sworn as sheriff last Dec. 3 while protests into the November 2018 general election remained unresolved.
Judge Shirley, during a January 18 hearing in Whiteville, said that the jury trial would take place outside of Columbus County, most likely in Pender, in part because state law requires that the distant location at least border Columbus.
Hill said he received the scheduling order Superior Court, but did not know what prompted Judge Shirley’s decisions.
Greene, a Republican, was shown as the winner of the general election by 37 votes following a recount in late November, his original margin of victory over Democrat Hatcher apparently 34 votes.
For more on this story see tomorrow’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.