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Shooter indicted on murder charge in death of Julius Sampson Jr.

Shooter indicted on murder charge in death of Julius Sampson Jr.


The man accused of fatally shooting Julius Randolph Sampson Jr. outside a restaurant at Hanes Mall in August has been indicted for murder.

Late Monday, a Forsyth County grand jury indicted Robert Anthony Granato, 23, on a charge of first-degree murder. He was also indicted on a charge of carrying a concealed gun after or while consuming alcohol.

The indictments move the case into Forsyth Superior court, where either a trial date will be set or prosecutors and Granato's attorney will agree to a plea deal. As with many murder cases, it could take months before the case is resolved. A jury trial would likely be delayed even more because of COVID-19 health precautions.

Sampson, a married father of three children and a barber who worked at Hanes Mall, was shot to death on Aug. 6, 2019 outside BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, where he had been having lunch with a friend. The shooting sparked allegations that Granato, who is white, killed Sampson because Sampson was Black.

Granato's attorney, Paul James, claims that Granato killed Sampson in self-defense after he said Sampson slammed Granato to the ground and then choked and hit him. According to an autopsy, Sampson died from a gunshot wound to the chest. 

Monday's indictment alleges that Granato "unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did of malice aforethought kill and murder Julius Randolph Sampson Jr." If convicted of first-degree murder, Granato would face either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will pursue the death penalty. 

Not only is Granato's attorney claiming self-defense, he is also arguing that that Granato's actions are protected under North Carolina's Castle Doctrine, which provides a so-called Stand Your Ground defense. In other words, under the law, a person is justified in using deadly force and has no duty to retreat in "any place he or she has the lawful right to be" if deadly force is needed to prevent "imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another." 

That has led some of Sampson's supporters, including his wife, Keyia Sampson, to protest North Carolina's Stand Your Ground law and call for state legislators strike the law down. 

James and Forsyth County prosecutors hotly dispute some of the facts of the case. But they broadly agree on some of what is alleged to have happen:

At 3 p.m. Aug. 6, 2019, Granato and his friend, Landon Smith, came into BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. Granato had a concealed carry permit and was carrying two guns -- a 9-mm handgun and a .22-caliber Derringer pistol. But before going into the restaurant, Granato put the 9-mm handgun into the glove compartment of his car. James said he forgot he had the pistol. 

Later, Sampson and his friend came into the restaurant to have lunch.

Three empty seats separated the two groups of men. Granato, after having several alcoholic drinks, complained that there wasn't enough alcohol in his drinks and used misogynistic language to describe female staffers, including using a term referring to female genitalia, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin said in a January hearing.

Managers asked Granato and Smith to leave. Sampson and his friend got up at the same time. 

James and Martin dispute what happened next. Martin has said that Granato was lying in wait for Sampson, hiding the pistol behind his back. James said that's just not true. 

Outside the restaurant, Sampson said, "You ain't never messed with a N-word like me before." Granato repeated the phrase back to him, using the N-word, which James said enraged Sampson to the point that Sampson rushed Granato, threw him to the ground and choked and hit him. 

James has argued that Granato had a traumatic brain injury and had been told if he took another hit to the head, it might be fatal. James said because of that, Granato feared for his life and fired the gun as a result. 

Martin has said they have multiple theories that Granato committed premeditated murder. Martin also said that Granato was involved in two prior incidents in which he brandished a handgun. James said Granato was never criminally charged in those incidents.

A court date in Forsyth Superior Court has not yet been set.

Photos: Vigil for Julius Sampson



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