Tony Summers was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for a sexual assault and murder. According to court documents Tony Summers would sexually assault and stab Lavell Williams repeatedly causing her death. Tony Summers would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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Tony Savalis Summers, head bowed as it had been for more than eight weeks of trial, quietly accepted a jury’s verdict of death Tuesday for the rape and murder of a Greensboro mother in 2006.
Summers, 36, becomes Guilford County’s fifth inmate on death row. A jury last sent someone there in 2002.
No one from Summers’ family was present when jurors returned their verdict about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Guilford County Superior Court.
Jurors spent nearly 16 hours deliberating his fate, after last week finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Lavell Williams on Nov. 7, 2006. She was stabbed 39 times after being raped repeatedly in front of her children, who were 16, 11 and 5 at the time, according to testimony. The two oldest children were stabbed but survived after the older daughter, bleeding from neck and chest wounds, fled to a neighbor’s home.
Relatives of the victim declined to comment Tuesday. But one shook prosecutor Stephen Cole’s hand in the hall before the sentencing.
“Good job, sir,” he said.
Detective Tony Hinson said he was pleased with the verdict.
“It speaks to the true facts and evidence presented in this case,” he said. “I realize that it had to be difficult for the jury.”
Jurors declined to comment after the sentencing, although one said as she left, “It’s been a hard road.” Another juror wiped at tears earlier when the judge stood to proclaim the death sentence, reading from a prepared form.
“May God have mercy on your soul,” Judge Brad Long told Summers, who stood quietly by his attorneys.
Assistant Public Defender David Clark and defense attorney Bob McClellan said it was a difficult sentence to hear after getting to know Summers.
“The man I wound up getting to know was not the same man who did this horrendous stuff,” Clark said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to get the jury to see the Tony we did.”
Attorneys spent five weeks selecting the jury, rejecting nearly 80 people before settling on nine women, three men and three alternates.
On Thursday, the jury began deliberating whether Summers should spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole or be put to death. Late Friday afternoon, the jury foreman asked Long if a life sentence would be the default if the jurors could not come to a unanimous decision. Long told them to not worry about the outcome, just to do their best to reach a consensus.
Jurors asked Monday to review more than a dozen pieces of evidence.
During the trial and sentencing phase, the defense argued that Summers suffered from frontal lobe brain damage, which affected his ability to reason and made him more impulsive. He likely was injured during seizures as a child, but he also suffered from abuse and neglect, witnesses testified.
On the night of the murder, Summers was intoxicated and high on cocaine, according to testimony. Medical experts testified that alcohol would have made him more impulsive and cocaine would have fueled aggression.
Cole argued that Summers, who had served prison time for a previous conviction for a sex offense, knew exactly what he was doing.
Summers’ case often drew attorneys and court employees to the trial. Tuesday was no different. More than 20 stopped by to hear the judge sentence Summers to death. He also gave Summers more than 102 years for the remaining charges of rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.
Long stayed the execution order, as is customary, because an appeal was automatically filed.
It takes years, perhaps seven to 10 years on average, for death penalty cases to go through the appeals and post-conviction process, said Thomas Maher, executive director of the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services.
North Carolina has not executed anyone since 2006; questions about the lethal injection are being debated. The 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allows death row inmates to use statistics to raise questions of bias in their conviction, also likely will delay executions, Maher said.
The last person put to death in the state was Samuel R. Flippen for a 1994 murder in Forsyth County . He died Aug. 18, 2006 .