Prosecutors are trying Guilford County’s first death penalty case in nearly four years.
Jury selection began last week and will continue this week in Guilford County Superior Court in the murder and rape trial of Tony Savalis Summers.
Summers, 36, of Greensboro is accused of raping Lavell N. Williams and stabbing her 40 times at her McIntosh Street apartment on Nov. 7, 2006.
He also is charged with a second count of rape, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, four counts of kidnapping and one count of burglary.
Selecting a jury in this case — one that could lead to a death sentence — may take a while, especially since the interview process is being done one potential juror at a time.
Typically, 12 jurors are questioned by the prosecution and defense at a time. As people are dismissed, questioning narrows to the unfilled seats. Then, alternates are questioned and selected.
As of Friday, four jurors out of a pool of about 50 had been selected. Another eight will be needed, along with two or three alternates.
This trial, because it involves the death penalty, will take place in two phases. In the first phase, the jury will be asked to decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges.
If the jury convicts on the murder charge, then it will have to decide whether the death penalty is warranted in phase two.
Assistant District Attorney Stephen Cole, Assistant Public Defender David Clark and defense attorney Robert McClellan declined to comment Friday.
In previous hearings, Cole argued that capital punishment is warranted because Summers had been convicted of sex offenses, the heinousness of the crime, and the accusation that the murder occurred during the commission of other crimes.
Cole said Summers broke into Williams’ home, bound her with shoelaces, and raped and killed her while her three children — ages 16, 11 and 5 at the time — were home. The two older children were bound and stabbed. The oldest child escaped and ran to a neighbor’s home.
Summers fled in a pickup and was later involved in a hit-and-run. He was arrested two days after Williams’ death.
In the county’s last death penalty case in 2007, the jury couldn’t agree on the punishment. So a judge gave William James Schreiber back-to-back life sentences for killing his girlfriend and drowning her 8-month-old daughter.