|Daryl Jerome Reed|
A Winston-Salem man accused of killing a 2-year-old boy in 2014 has rejected a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table.
Daryl Jerome Reed, 26, made the decision at the last minute Wednesday morning in Forsyth Superior Court.
Reed is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Corey Joseph Plater on Aug. 12, 2014.
Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster had offered to allow Reed to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder and be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
For 1st-degree murder, there are only 2 possible sentences - a life sentence or the death penalty.
Just before the hearing, Reed appeared hesitant. For several minutes, he refused to take a pen his attorney, Julie Boyer, offered him so he could sign off on a change in the plea transcript reflecting the fact that he turned 26 on Tuesday. He eventually took the pen from Boyer.
Just after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the court proceeding started, and Judge Stuart Albright went over the plea transcript with Reed. When Albright asked Reed if he understood the charge, Reed replied, "In a sense."
Then Reed said he didn't want to take the plea.
"I don't feel taking this plea is in my best interest," he said.
Reed also told Albright he wanted to fire Boyer, a lawyer in the Forsyth County Capital Defender's Office who was appointed to Reed.
Reed said that he and Boyer disagreed on how to handle his case. Albright denied Reed's request, noting that Boyer is not always going to tell Reed what he wants to hear.
"She can't sugarcoat it," he said. "She has to tell it like it is."
Boyer said in court that Foster had told her that if Reed didn't take the plea offer, she would seek the death penalty.
Foster said in court that the plea deal would expire at noon Wednesday and would not be offered again.
Reed didn't change his mind. If Forsyth County prosecutors pursue the death penalty, Reed will be assigned a 2nd lawyer to represent him, which is required in death penalty cases.
The next step now will be to hold what is called a Rule 24 hearing - scheduled April 6 - in which a Forsyth County judge will determine whether prosecutors have enough aggravating factors to pursue the death penalty.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill said he could not comment on the case but said that in general, state law requires a jury trial when prosecutors pursue the death penalty. If a defendant is convicted of 1st-degree murder, a jury then decides whether to recommend a death sentence.
According to an autopsy report, Corey died from a laceration of the liver caused by blunt force trauma to his abdomen, meaning the 2-year-old was punched or hit in the stomach.
Winston-Salem police went to a house in the 2800 block of Piedmont Circle around 5:50 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2014. According to the autopsy, Corey was found in the bathroom.
He had bruises on the left side of his face near his mouth and also had contusions on his upper right chest and on his forehead. The autopsy report said police believed Corey had been struck, possibly by a belt.
Winston-Salem police have said Reed and another adult had been taking care of Corey that day and that Reed had been dating one of Corey's relatives. Police have not identified either the relative or the other adult taking care of Corey.
No trial date has been set. Reed is in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal, March 3, 2016