By sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Prosecutors cannot reference murder-defendant Jimmy Bentley’s nickname during trial to infer a racial motive for the homicide, according to a ruling filed in district court Thursday.
The ruling came after a hearing last week on pretrial arguments in the case.
Citing case precedent, Judge Joe Parker ruled prosecutors can only use Bentley’s nickname of “Lynching Lloyd” as evidence of character if the defense brings Bentley’s character into testimony.
District Attorney Matt Chandler had based a theory of racial motivation on the nickname, filing intention to seek a hate aggravation for the crime in December.
Bentley, a 72-year-old white man, is charged with the Christmas Eve shooting death of Joseph Phillips, a 48-year-old black man working in Clovis during the holiday season as a photo salesman.
Phillips was shot and died in the parking lot of Econo Lodge on Mabry Drive. Court records indicate the defense will argue Bentley shot Phillips because he feared for the safety of himself and his family staying with him at the hotel.
Defense attorney Randy Knudson stated in court records Bentley’s nickname was given to him by his wife and was used by members of a monthly shooting club he belonged to. He argued the name had no bearing on Bentley’s character or intentions at the time of the homicide and was prejudicial information the jury should not be exposed to at trial.
Bentley’s five-day trial is scheduled to begin Monday.
Earlier this week Knudson filed notice with the court that he plans to argue Bentley lacked the capacity to form intent to commit first-degree murder.
In June Bentley was transferred from the Curry County Adult Detention Center to the Department of Corrections where he could receive psychiatric treatment after Clovis jail officials told the court his needs could not be met locally.
Administrator Leslie Johnson told the court Bentley’s mental state had been deteriorating since his incarceration.
There is a hearing scheduled today before Parker to discuss more pretrial issues and motions in the case.