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Tiana Brown, sister of Lester Kearney, is emotional as she speaks about his influence on her life.


Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the capital murder trial of Lester Kearney of Littleton, who is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in connection with the 2018 Lake Gaston home invasion and fire that severely injured the Rev. John Alford and resulted in the death of his wife, Nancy.

Monday morning, Emancipate NC hosted a virtual press conference with Kearney’s mother and other family members. 

Attorney Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC, said that part of her organization’s efforts include standing with families like Kearney’s at moments when an injustice is on the cusp of happening.

She said that Kearney had been wrongly incarcerated and that his family had suffered immeasurable harm because of a system that is too often ready to “lynch” a black man with no real evidence and a rush to judgment by a criminal justice system that she described as biased, unfair and corrupt.

Blagrove said that Kearney is innocent of the charges he faces, and that she wanted those attending the press conference to meet the real loved one that Kearney is, not the person portrayed in the media or the caricature created by the district attorney.

Cierra Cobb, family advocate for Emancipate NC, said they weren’t asking for a pity party, but for a fair jury to look at the evidence and make a fair decision. 

Among family members to speak was James Kearney, the accused’s uncle, a former law enforcement officer, who said his family has compassion for the victims of the 2018 crime. His nephew, however, should not be incarcerated for it, he said, because there is no evidence showing him being involved.

Pastor Mary Kearney, Lester Kearney’s aunt, said her nephew was being railroaded into a fight for his life and implored officials to find the right person.

Kearney’s mother, Doris Lashley, said her son has had his fair share of problems with the law, but said that was before he was on his way to a life of being a good father to his son, 7-year-old Lester, Jr., a good brother and son. 

She said her son did not commit the crime he is accused of and asked for a fair trial.

Kearney’s sister, Tiana Brown, became tearful as she spoke about a brother she said has been treated unfairly in every way possible.

“It’s really breaking our family apart because he’s not here to hold us together,” she said. “That was my best friend. I miss him so much.”

Brown also called for a fair trial.

Lashley said now that her son is being held in the Franklin County Jail rather than Raleigh’s Central Prison, she speaks with him every day. She said he doesn’t think the trial will go his way because of his background.

Kearney’s trial is scheduled to begin March 22.