Tuesday, Jul 22nd

Last updateMon, 21 Jul 2014 8am

You are here: Home News Crime Preliminary trial dates set in SoBo capital murder case

Preliminary trial dates set in SoBo capital murder case

Halifax County Circuit Court Judge Joel Cunningham has set virtually the entire month of September as a range of dates for the capital murder trial of James Lloyd Terry.


Terry, a 41-year-old Halifax resident, is accused of the capital murder and rape of 84-year-old Charlotte Osborne Rice in April 2011.

Cunningham agreed with the prosecution the case should move along but added the caseload of the court and the gravity of the charges against Terry demanded more time.

“There’s always a reality to these things, and I have a full docket,” Cunningham told Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney David Grimes during Tuesday’s motions hearing. “This is not my only jurisdiction where I have a capital case, and I cannot put aside my other obligations.”

Cunningham ruled on several motions during Tuesday’s hearing, including supplemental arguments from the commonwealth to set a trial date.

Cunningham denied a defense motion from Assistant Capital Defender Stephanie S. Miller to videotape “voir dire,” the process by which attorneys select or reject certain jurors to hear a case.

Grimes argued the process has worked for years in its present form, and videotaping voir dire proceedings opens up more questions than it answers, saying videotaping voir dire may not be necessary for the conduct of a fair trial but may be an impediment.

“I do believe the Constitution requires Mr. Terry to have an accurate record,” countered Miller.

If he were a prospective juror, the knowledge he was being videotaped would make him uncomfortable, Cunningham said in denying the motion.

“You have to weigh the advantages of using technology such as video voir dire,” Cunningham told the court.

“Judges see witnesses live and in person and see nuances video won’t pick up,” he said. “It seems to me a trial judge would be best to see if a person would be suitable to serve on a jury.”

Among other motions, Cunningham agreed in principal with the capital defense team on its motion to appoint and compensate a DNA expert separate from one assigned to the case by the state forensics lab.

Terry was initially arrested and charged in April 2011 after the body of Rice was discovered in her North Main Street home when authorities responded to a report of a possible breaking and entering.

Acting on a 911 call to police from neighbor Joe Taylor, police arrived at the South Boston residence where they apprehended Terry following a foot pursuit through yards neighboring Rice’s house.

Terry, a registered sex offender, has been held without bond since the time of his arrest.

Terry could face the death penalty if convicted.