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NC Supreme Court won't hear case of Rev. Barber's conviction

Rev. William Barber speaks at a media event Saturday afternoon at Mt. Lebanon A.M.E. Zion Church in Elizabeth City.
Laura Pellicer
Rev. William Barber speaks at a media event Saturday afternoon at Mt. Lebanon A.M.E. Zion Church in Elizabeth City.

North Carolina's highest court has refused to hear the appeal of a civil rights leader who was convicted of trespassing during a 2017 demonstration inside the Legislative Building.

The state Supreme Court announced on Friday that it had denied the request of the Rev. William Barber II of Goldsboro for the justices to review his case and his 2019 trial. The court also granted the request of state attorneys to dismiss the appeal motion from Barber's attorney.

The decisions, which come after a Court of Appeals ruling in December also siding with the state, appear to mean Barber's second-degree trespass conviction is final.

Jurors had found Barber guilty after he led a call-and-response chant with roughly 50 people outside Senate leader Phil Berger’s office, protesting poor health care spending.

A Court of Appeals judge wrote that Barber’s free speech rights were not harmed by his arrest, stating he “was not expelled from the General Assembly for the content of his words. He was removed for their volume.”

Barber, a former state NAACP leader who is now president of the national Repairers of the Breach group, said at the trial that he was using his “preaching voice” and he had the constitutional right to instruct legislators.

The Legislative Building’s rules “prohibit noise loud enough to impair conversations and disrupt the ability of legislators and their staff from carrying out their duties,” December’s opinion says.

Barber received a suspended one-day sentence, unsupervised probation, a $200 fine and 24 hours of community service.

Barber's lawyer wrote the justices that his client's case merited review because it had significant public interest and involved legal principles related to the First Amendment. Since the Court of Appeals opinion was unanimous, the court was under no obligation to hear the case.

A spokesperson for Repairers of the Breach or his attorney didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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