Thomas Palmer

Thomas Palmer

By Carter Giegerich

Crossroads Chronicle

 

After more than five years, the trial over the 2016 slaying of Timothy Norris in his home in Cashiers has kicked into motion in Jackson County.

Thomas Glenn Palmer, Jr., 37, of Tignall, Georgia, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the case, which could lead to a life sentence in federal prison or potentially the death penalty if he is convicted.

On the morning of Feb. 3, 2016, Norris’ wife Tammy returned home from a shift at the hospital to find her husband dead in his bed, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds. Just over a month later, Palmer was charged with the murder following an investigation by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

A trial was put on hold, however, as Palmer was already being held out of state on unrelated charges tied to armed robbery in Wilkes County, Georgia. Palmer pleaded guilty to the charges, which included armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and was facing a 10-year prison sentence in Georgia when he was extradited to Jackson County in April 2018.

Palmer, Timothy Norris’ stepson, has been held in Jackson County without bond since that time, awaiting trial as numerous delays and continuances pushed his hearings back for nearly three years.

On Feb. 17, the first pre-trial hearings in the murder case were held in Jackson County. The hearing covered some of the logistics of the trial and began the process of determining what evidence will be allowed, said Jackson County Assistant Clerk of Court Stevie Bradley.

“The main things they discussed were scheduling for additional motions to suppress, which will be heard the week of March 15,” Bradley said. “There are all kids of pre-trial motions, especially with a capital case. The defense is trying to suppress part of the evidence, so there is a pre-trial motion for that.”

The impact of COVID-19 on the trial was also addressed during the Feb. 17 hearing, in an effort to ensure a fair trial can be conducted safely despite restrictions on gatherings and social distancing measures.

“They talked about the logistics of handling the jury with COVID issues – every single thing in this trial has to be in agreement with the state and the defense, and if they are not in agreement on something the judge has to make a ruling,” Bradley said. “Right down to what room the jurors will be in, what form we will use, those are the sorts of things they’re ironing out this week.”

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on April 19, but the defense requested a four-month continuance. The judge assigned to the trial instead granted them a four-week continuance.

“As of right now, we’re looking at May,” Bradley said. “They think it will take six to eight weeks to try the case, mostly because of how the jury selection works with COVID.”

Tami Norris, Tim Norris’ ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, Brianna, said she was relieved to see some movement in a case that has been hanging over her family’s heads for so long.

“It’s been over five years since the tragedy happened in February, 2016. Since then, his daughter Brianna is now a freshman at East Carolina but she did drive up for the hearings and plans to be as involved as she can be,” Tami Norris said. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s still not over, but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re getting to at least see some closure, and we’re hoping for justice in this whole situation.”