- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A suspect’s confession to police in a fatal bar robbery and shooting in eastern North Carolina was involuntary, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in ordering a new trial for him.

The three appeals judges hearing the challenge by Justin Lavone Lynch decided the confession was wrongly obtained by Lenoir County sheriff’s officers when they offered the hope of leniency to him.

After unsuccessfully getting his confession suppressed for trial, Lynch was convicted in 2018 of first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting death of Pit Stop bar owner Chad Bostic in 2016. Video evidence showed two masked individuals committing the crimes. Lynch has been serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Court of Appeals Judge Chris Dillon, writing the unanimous opinion, said the state Supreme Court has ruled over the years that promising relief from a criminal charge can make a confession inadmissible. But the totality of circumstances must be reviewed, Dillon said.

In Lynch’s case, the suspect repeatedly denied involvement in the robbery and was predisposed to believe he’d receive a life sentence with or without his confession, the opinion reads.



An interrogator promised that if Lynch confessed, they’d ask the judge to “be lenient because he was truthful.”

It’s obvious the interrogators introduced the idea that the judge could be influenced in sentencing and that they would be willing to testify on the defendant’s behalf, Dillon wrote.

While there was sufficient evidence for a jury to convict Lynch - including testimony by others involved in the robbery - the confession was quite damning to his case, according to Dillon.

“We cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that all 12 jurors would have voted to convict defendant if his confession was not offered into evidence,” Dillon wrote. Judges Allegra Collins and Chris Brook joined in the opinion.

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