DURHAM, N.C. — One of the five men accused in the murder of an 89-year-old Durham woman has entered a guilty plea.
Ricky Morris appeared in court Thursday to admit his role in the death of Lois Cannady. Instead of facing first-degree murder charges, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Part of his agreement involves him testifying against the other four men involved in the case.
"Even the DA and investigating officers say he was a follower. He didn't intend for what happened to happen," said Linda Miles, Morris' attorney.
In June 2002, Lois Cannady, 89, was shot to death in her home as she dialed 911 for help. Prosecutors believe she heard a noise of people coming in the house and took out a .22-caliber pistol and fired a shot.
"While she was on the phone with the 911 operator, you could hear a loud pop, bang and all of a sudden, silence. There was nothing else on the line," prosecutor David Saacks said.
Miles said pleading guilty was the right move because her client is mentally challenged, but a jury may not have believed him.
"I was very concerned that I wouldn't be able to explain that fully to 12 laypeople, and if I failed at that, then Ricky would have spent the rest of his life in prison," she said.
Members of Cannady's family said they were pleased with Morris' plea.
"I think we are pleased with what is going on with one guy coming over and helping us out. I think it will make the case stronger than what it was," said Buddy Cannady, Lois' grandson.
Morris will not be sentenced until the other four men charged in the case are tried or reach plea deals. He faces a maximum of about 80 years in prison. His attorney believes Morris will escape severe punishment since he is cooperating.
In addition, Mark Edwards, the lawyer for Jerome Freeman, one of the men accused in Cannady's murder, wanted off the case, saying his attorney-client relationship had disintegrated.
"Mr. Freeman needs someone that he is confident in. He needs someone who he can communicate with and listen to because he is about to make a very bad decision," Edwards said in court.
On Thursday, the judge granted Edwards' request.
Michael Sullivan, who is also charged in the case, is set to go to trial on Oct. 18. Prosecutors believe Sullivan was the ringleader in the incident.