RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina appeals court is ordering a new trial for a convicted killer in a bad drug deal because eyewitnesses identified the man only after prosecutors improperly lead them in naming the suspect.

A divided Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday that Brandon Malone’s conviction last year for first-degree murder was tainted.

The court said two witnesses who were key to Malone’s conviction identified him in court only after help from prosecutors. Judges said much of the remaining testimony about the 2012 killing in Burlington was contradictory.

Malone was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors said the Durham man and an accomplice were looking for a drug dealer who’d ripped them off. They asked neighbors how to find the dealer and opened fire after getting no answers.