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Capital murder trial to include four phases

The James Lloyd Terry capital murder trial, set for September, will have four distinct phases, the result of a motions hearing Monday afternoon in Halifax County Circuit Court.

Terry, a 41-year-old Halifax resident, is currently facing four charges in relation to the April 2011 death of 84-year-old Charlotte Osborne Rice of South Boston, including two for capital murder during rape, one for capital murder during robbery and one for object sexual penetration by force.

Judge Joel Cunningham ruled on a number of motions Monday, the result of which separated Terry’s trial into four phases, including the guilt and innocence phase.

If Terry is convicted at trial, sentencing for non-capital charges would precede arguments in determining aggravating factors regarding the capital murder charges against Terry, followed by sentencing for the capital charges against the defendant.

In ordering sentencing for non-capital charges before capital charges, Cunningham reversed an earlier ruling.

“The court’s obligation is to be fair,” said Cunningham. “There is a prohibition which narrows evidence presented for non-capital offenses, and it’s broader for capital offenses. We have to go with what is fair.”

Cunningham also reversed an earlier ruling and split the eligibility and selection phases of the capital sentencing process.

“The court feels more comfortable with following the law,” said Cunningham. “We have a statute that limits what can be done.”

Cunningham also ruled on a motion by the prosecution to obligate the capital defense team to provide notice of expert testimony 120 days away from the start of the trial, instead of 60 days out.

In a compromise, Cunningham ruled if the defense has made a determination to use an expert witness to testify at trial and made [its] analysis 120 days before the start of the trial, it should provide notice to the prosecution.

In another ruling, Cunningham denied a defense motion for the prosecution to provide a bill of particulars to the defense team.

A bill of particulars is a written statement used in civil and criminal actions, that is submitted by a plaintiff or a prosecutor at the request of a defendant, giving the defendant detailed information concerning the claims or charges made against the defendant.

As to the Terry case, the defense was looking for specific information regarding the “object” allegedly used for object sexual penetration, and specifics concerning items allegedly taken from the victim’s home.

The prosecution argued it had shown good faith in turning over “every scrap” of information it has obtained from police investigators.

“We have an open file,” argued prosecutor Bryan Haskins in response to Joseph Teefey of the capital defense team, who told the court, “Hiding the ball is absolutely ridiculous at this stage of the proceedings.”

“I’m satisfied with the argument of the commonwealth that if provided the defense with photos and information the defense needs…I think the commonwealth has done all it could,” said Cunningham, before denying the defense motion for a bill of particulars [at this time].

Terry was arrested on the murder charge 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 North Main Street 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 of capital murder.