Opening statements were made Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a man accused of killing a UNC professor in 2014.
The first-degree murder trial of Troy Arrington began late Wednesday afternoon with different scenarios laid out by the prosecution and defense.
Arrington is being tried in connection with the July 2014 killing of UNC professor Feng Liu.
Liu was hit in the head with what officials have described as a landscaping rock while he was out on a walk that hot afternoon around the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, where he was a research professor.
“The state actually knows very closely the time that Dr. Liu was struck,” District Attorney Jim Woodall said when laying out the prosecution’s narrative, “because he was actually talking on the phone to a friend at the time it happened.”
Arrington and Derrick Davis were both arrested the day Liu was killed.
Both men were at the scene when other witnesses came upon the two men standing in the roadway adjacent to the Chapel Hill campus while Liu was facedown in a puddle of blood, according to testimony.
But Arrington’s defense team laid out a scenario where Arrington was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We contend that the evidence will show you that Troy Arrington witnessed Derrick Davis brutally beat and rob Dr. Liu,” Arrington’s defense attorney said. “But instead of coming forward as the witness that Troy Arrington is, he began to make a series of mistakes.”
Liu died after being rushed into surgery at UNC following the incident. His wallet was also taken after he was struck and purchases were made that were delivered back to Arrington, according to Woodall. But defense attorneys say that does not mean Arrington was the individual who actually placed any of those orders.
A Town of Chapel Hill transportation employee was the first witness onto the scene that day.
He was also the first witness called to the stand on Wednesday, where he gave emotional testimony describing what he saw.
“When I pulled up there, I could see blood in front of Professor Liu’s face. His face was flat on the pavement and his breathing seemed to be hard, almost as if someone was blowing bubbles through a straw.”
That witness also took several pictures of the scene, including of Davis and Arrington, and told Woodall why he took those pictures during Wednesday’s testimony.
“Because it seemed pretty damned suspicious that Professor Liu was laying there like he was.”
Arrington has been charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. Davis is set to be tried at a later date.
Officials anticipate Arrington’s trial to last through the middle of next week.