10/14/04 — Jury selection under way in Lane murder trial

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Jury selection under way in Lane murder trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 14, 2004 1:58 PM

Jury selection resumed today in the Wayne County Superior Court trial of Eric Glenn Lane, who was accused of murdering a 5-year-old girl.

A small portion of the first panel of prospective jurors was questioned Wednesday afternoon by the state for their views on the death penalty and their knowledge of the case.

Judge D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville decided to let the jurors be questioned only on those two issues. Once the state accepts 12 jurors, they will be questioned as a group by the state on other issues.

District Attorney Branny Vickory accepted eight jurors Wednesday. Several were excused by the court, because they opposed the death penalty.

When the state passes 12 jurors, then the defense will question them on their beliefs and knowledge of the case. Each side will get 14 peremptory challenges to remove jurors without cause.

Two to four alternate jurors also will be selected after the first 12 are seated.

Lane was charged with the first-degree murder of Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002. She lived with her mother on Crosscut Place in the Saulston community but was visiting a family friend on Brandywine Drive in the Patetown community on the fateful afternoon.

Judge Hooks had ruled that Lane was competent to be tried following a four-hour hearing Tuesday afternoon and arguments from both sides Wednesday morning.

Lane also was charged with a first-degree statutory rape, a first-degree sex offense, taking indecent liberties with a minor, a lewd and lascivious act and first-degree kidnapping. He has been held without bond.

If convicted of the murder charge, he would be sentenced by the same jury to either life in prison without parole or the death penalty. If convicted of the other charges, he could be sentenced to up to two life terms and about 31 years in prison.

Jury selection is expected to take the remainder of the week. The entire trial may last several more weeks in Courtroom No. 4.