Death penalty sought

Published 11:11 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

Prosecutors plan to pursue the death penalty in prosecuting a man accused of murdering a newspaper carrier last year.

Christopher Jonta Artis, 19, was arrested last week and charged with capital murder, robbery and firearms offenses. Police say he murdered John Price Jr., 50, on July 8, 2009, as Price delivered the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

“Right now, the commonwealth intends to pursue the death penalty,” prosecutor Will Jamerson said Friday.

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The death penalty can be imposed for a murder committed during a robbery or attempted robbery, in addition to a number of other qualifications.

According to police, Price was killed in the 100 block of Brewer Avenue about 4 a.m. that day as he delivered the paper. Officers responding to calls of shots fired found Price lying in the roadway, with his van stopped nearby. The driver’s door was open and the engine was running, police said at the time.

Artis made his first court appearance on Friday, where court-appointed attorney Mike Rosenberg had to withdraw as Artis’ lawyer because of a conflict. Darell Sayer of Portsmouth was appointed as Artis’ defender. The Capital Defender’s Office also will be involved in the case, Jamerson said.

Artis next appears in court on July 19 for a case review.