Local News

Man Charged With Murder Of Durham Woman May Avoid Death Penalty

Posted November 14, 2003

— A state law could spare an accused murderer from the death penalty. A defense attorney says her client cannot be executed because he is mentally retarded. However, the victim's son is not buying that argument.

On June 5, 2002, Lois Cannady was doused with pepper spray and her car stolen from the driveway. Later that night, the 89-year-old woman was shot to death, still holding the phone she used to call 911.

"I can just imagine the fear that went through her mind. It tears me all to pieces," said David Cannady, Lois' son.

Five teens, including Ricky Morris, are charged in connection with Cannady's death. Now Lisa Miles, Morris' attorney, wants to spare him from the death penalty by having a judge declare him mentally retarded. She said Morris has never scored above 70 on an IQ test and cannot function like most adults.

"Someone with an IQ that is so low, whose adaptive skills are so lacking -- in a very basic sense, there's not a good sense of right and wrong," she said.

Miles said years worth of Durham public school records make it clear that Morris has mental retardation. Cannady said it is clear to him, Morris should have known better.

"He knows right from wrong. Every one of them knew right from wrong," he said.

Prosecutors said they will not decide the death penalty in the Cannady case until the Mike Peterson trial ends. However, if a judge decides Morris is mentally retarded, that choice will be taken out of their hands and he will not be eligible for the death penalty.

So far, no one charged in Cannady's death has gone to trial.


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