LUMBERTON — The lawyers for a man on trial for first-degree murder successfully argued on Thursday that the jury should be able to consider a lesser charge when deciding the fate of John Darren Bullard.
Bullard, also known as “Blue-eyed John,” could now be convicted of second-degree murder, a charge that carries a sentence of at least 10 and a half years rather than the death penalty or life in prison.
The jury will deliberate on Bullard’s sentence after hearing closing arguments on Monday. Bullard also faces the felony charge of shooting into an occupied vehicle.
Robert Floyd, resident Superior Court judge, said his decision to include the lesser sentence was based on the court’s stance that in capital cases, it is best to be as careful as possible.
Bullard, now 29 years old, is charged in the death of 26-year-old Crystal Locklear, who was shot to death while she was traveling on Union Chapel Road in Pembroke in 2006.
Bullard’s court-appointed defense attorneys Mike Ramos and Harold “Butch” Pope said evidence concerning Locklear’s murder “shows absolutely no evidence of intent to kill.”
Ramos and Pope argued the inclusion of a lesser sentence based on witnesses’ testimony that shots were fired from both Locklear’s SUV and Bullard’s Escalade, and they could not tell who shot first in the exchange of gunfire that led to Locklear’s death.
Locklear was shot in the chest with a high-powered pistol while riding with her boyfriend, Tommy Lloyd, and Christopher Locklear, in an SUV being driven by Billy Hammonds. Police said at the time that the bullets were intended for Christopher Locklear, who had a dispute with Bullard in the weeks before the shooting.
“Based on all evidence presented, this was an unprovoked shooting based on a retaliatory act,” District Attorney Johnson Britt said.
“Who shot first, I think the jury should decide,” Ramos said. “They very well may decide that Chris Locklear shot first.”
While the defense argued that Bullard may have fired in self-defense, Floyd said that none of the evidence “supports any admission of anything less than second-degree murder.”
“Either the defendant did the shooting, or he didn’t do the shooting, is what it boils down to,” he said.