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Mental test ordered in murder case

 

Judge Joel Cunningham ruled on a number of motions Monday in Halifax County Circuit Court in the James Lloyd Terry capital murder case.

 

Cunningham granted a commonwealth motion to appoint a mental health expert and signed an order appointing Dr. Evan Nelson of Forensic Psychology Associates to evaluate the defendant concerning the existence or absence of his mental retardation, cognitive deficit and/or brain injury.

The capital defense team objected to the order on the issue of the assertion by the defense on mental retardation.

The capital defense team had no objection to Cunningham granting a commonwealth motion and signing an order appointing commonwealth mental health expert Leigh D. Hagan Ph.D. to evaluate the defendant concerning the existence or absence of mitigating circumstances relating to his mental condition at the time of the offense.

Cunningham denied in part and granted in part a commonwealth motion for the court to rule on voir dire questions in advance of the trial, set for September.

He denied a commonwealth request for the parties to exchange specific voir dire questions before trial and ordered the parties to exchange topics and subtopics of voir dire inquiry no later than three days before the Aug. 19 hearing date.

The court will rule on any objections to the proposed topics of voir dire inquiry at that hearing.

Cunningham granted in part and denied in part a defense motion to preclude the commonwealth from asserting or implying in the presence of a jury that the defendant will likely commit serious violent crimes in the future.

The judge signed an order prohibiting the commonwealth from arguing or implying in the presence of a jury anything related to the defendant’s actual behavior in prison, including the potential for escape or his potential for attacking another inmate or guard.

The defense objected to the denied portions of that motion and also objected to Cunningham’s denying a defense motion to preclude personality testing by any commonwealth evaluators.

In another ruling, Cunningham granted in part and denied in part a defense motion for counsel and a third party observer to be present during any commonwealth expert’s mental health examination or evaluation of Terry.

He granted in part the defense motion by ordering the commonwealth expert’s mental health examination or evaluation of Terry be videotaped, and he signed an order requiring the commonwealth to provide defense counsel with at least seven days notice of the date and time of the scheduled evaluation or examination.

Terry, a 41-year-old Halifax resident, is facing seven charges in connection with the April 2011 death of 84-year-old Charlotte Osborne Rice, according to court records, including two for capital murder during rape, two for object sexual penetration and one each for capital murder in the commission of robbery, burglary and robbery.

Terry was arrested 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 from a neighbor, police arrived at Rice’s residence where they apprehended Terry following a foot pursuit through yards adjacent to Rice’s house.

 

Terry, a registered sex offender, could face the death penalty if convicted of capital charges.