North Carolina Native American Activist Framed For Murder
by John Johnson
Since June 1, 1999, North Carolina Native American activist Eddie Hatcher has been held in jail on charges of capital murder for a May 1999 drive-by shooting. But the evidence against him is shaky at best.
Eddie’s struggle against the corrupt authorities in Robeson County, N.C., goes back to 1988, when Eddie and fellow activist Timmy Jacobs seized the offices of the Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton, N.C. Holding several people hostage, they asked to speak to the governor and issued their demands: an investigation into dozens of unsolved murders where police involvement was suspected, into corruption in the local government, and into the death of a young Black man in the county jail.
Eddie and Timmy released their hostages unharmed after Gov. Jim Martin agreed to their demands. Eddie was acquitted of federal hostage-taking charges but then charged by the state with kidnapping. After an exhausting legal battle, Eddie decided to plead guilty and serve five years.
The governor’s office didn’t hold up its end of the agreement. A task force investigated the death in the county jail, but it ignored the sheriff’s office, the court system and drug trafficking in the county. Many of these problems have yet to be addressed.
Now, Eddie is charged with killing Brian McMillan in a drive-by shooting on May 31, 1999. But the case against him is flimsy.
The state fabricated a confession, claiming that Eddie confessed to a police officer on the night of his arrest – just minutes after he refused to make any statements to State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) officials and asked to speak to an attorney.
McMillan’s girlfriend, who was wounded in the shooting, has volunteered to have the bullet in her hip removed so it can be tested. But prosecutors opposed this – and have repeatedly delayed the release of test results on bullets found at the crime scene.
In July, the defense discovered a new witness: a woman who says she saw the shooting. She repeatedly tried to tell police that she was driving behind a truck with two men in the back who fired into the house – but police refused to take her statement. Another witness has come forward to say that he was taken into custody by SBI agents and threatened into implicating Eddie in the McMillan murder.
As of August 1, Eddie has been sitting in jail for 14 months without an arraignment. Because of the outrageous conduct of prosecutors, the sheriff’s department and the SBI, Eddie’s stand-by attorney has called for an immediate federal civil rights investigation.
As Eddie, who is representing himself, wrote in a May 2000 motion, “The State’s entire case against Defendant rests solely on manufactured evidence, concealed evidence which would show Defendant’s innocence, and perjured testimony.”