NEWLAND (AP) - Daniel Brian Lee is a ``cold-blooded killer' for whom the only appropriate sentence is death, prosecutors argued Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the murder trial.
After hearing arguments, the six-man, six-woman Avery County jury deliberated for slightly less than one hour before court was recessed. The panel will return to deliberations Thursday at 9:30 a.m.Lee pleaded guilty on April 16 to kidnapping Jeni Gray, the 27-year-old Appalachian State University news writer, from a Boone street. He then beat her repeatedly with a stick and stood on top of her back as he strangled her with her bra and sweat shirt, according to testimony.
Assistant District Attorney Jerry Wilson told the jurors that ``the time has come to say to Daniel Lee, 'We are going to cast you from our midst because you have plucked the very flower of humanity.' '
The prosecution contends that Lee has no conscience and that he killed Gray ``pitilessly' and without mercy. Wilson also described Lee as a killer who ``kills for fun.'
Defense attorneys argued that their client committed tragic crimes as a result of brain damage because of an aneurysm that he suffered in the spring of 1988.
Court-appointed defense attorney Chester Whittle said that Lee's ``perception of reality became distorted through no fault of his own.'
He said the defense had adequately proved that Lee's character drastically changed as a result of the aneurysm and that the state had not called for one witness to refute that.
``We're not trying to get him off,' Whittle said. ``We're not trying to get him to walk out of the courtroom with us. We are merely asking for his life.'
Lee, 23, will be tried later on a sexual assault charge in the Gray case, filed after it was revealed Gray had been shot internally with a BB gun. Lee pleaded innocent to that charge.
District Attorney Tom Rusher has spent seven days building a capital murder case, arguing Lee's Sept. 24 beating and strangling of Gray was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel.
Defense attorneys countered that Lee, an unemployed dishwasher, became murderous only after suffering the aneurysm in 1988.
At the conclusion of this sentencing hearing, Judge Charles C. Lamm will sentence Lee for kidnapping, raping and committing sexual offenses on a 20-year-old ASU student, whose statement to officers led to Lee's arrest. Lee pleaded guilty to those charges prior to this week's hearing.
He faces four life sentences and 50 years' imprisonment on those charges.
The student - the state's chief witness - said Lee kidnapped her five days after Gray disappeared and told her about killing Gray. The student said Lee also took her to Jakes Mountain, where he said he would have to kill her, too. She escaped when he stopped for gas at a convenience store.