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Defense seeks hearing on suspect's mental retardation claim

A Superior Court judge ruled last week that a jury would determine if Antonio Chance should face the death penalty if convicted for the 2006 slaying of Progress Energy worker Cynthia Moreland.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawyers for a man accused of killing a Progress Energy employee two years ago want a judge to reconsider a pre-trial hearing to determine whether their client is mentally retarded.

Superior Court Judge James Spencer Jr. denied the motion last Friday, but Bryan Collins and Karl Knudsen – defense attorneys for Antonio Davon Chance – want a new hearing on the matter.

Chance, 30, is charged with first-degree murder in the kidnapping, rape and death of Cynthia Moreland, whom police say was abducted from a parking garage in downtown Raleigh on Aug. 22, 2006.

Authorities found her body behind an abandoned barn in Harnett County 11 days later. Raleigh police say Chance tried to use Moreland's ATM card and that he called a tow truck when he got her car stuck at the site where her body was found and used Moreland's check to pay the tow truck driver.

State law prohibits executing mentally retarded people, those with an IQ below 70 and who had issues of adaptive functioning prior to age 18, if they are convicted of first-degree murder. Since it went into effect in 2001, 11 inmates have been removed from death row and sentenced to life in prison.

Chance's attorneys say their client meets the state's requirements, having deficiencies in at least five of 10 areas of adaptive functioning and having scored a full-scale IQ of 67 in September 2006 and a 66 on a November 2007 test.

In a report dated July 24, Dr. Mark Hazelrigg of Dorothea Dix Hospital wrote that he thinks Chance "does meet the criteria for mental retardation."

Prosecutors did not receive the report until Tuesday; the defense received the report Wednesday.

"The defendant contends that, had Dr. Hazelrigg's report been available to the court at the July 24 [sic], 2008, hearing, the ruling of the court would have been different as it would have been apparent to the court that there was not a genuine dispute among the experts," a defense motion filed Thursday states.

"We've received the motion, and we're obviously reviewing all the materials," said Wake County Assistant District Attorney Susan Spurlin.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has generally objected to pre-trial hearings on retardation claims, having said he would prefer a jury to consider evidence during a trial instead of having a judge make the decision beforehand.

Defense attorneys have said deciding the matter before trial would save time, money and resources and narrow the issues in the case.

"Since all of the experts who have examined Mr. Chance are unanimously of the opinion that he is mentally retarded, it doesn't seem to be a wise use of scarce resources to go through a full capital trial," Knudsen said.

Cynthia Moreland's daughter, Keisha Mangum, said Friday that she does not believe Chance is mentally retarded and that the issue, which has indefinitely postponed Chance's trial, has added to her family's pain.

"I could care less," she said. "I hate to sound that way, but he took my mother's life, and we've been waiting two years, almost, and we haven't come to a conclusion yet."


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