10/26/04 — Two more jurors selected to hear Lane murder trial

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Two more jurors selected to hear Lane murder trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 26, 2004 2:06 PM

Two more jurors were seated Monday in Wayne County Superior Court in the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane.

The two women joined three other women and a man who were seated last week.

The 33-year-old Lane is on trial for his life. He is accused of raping, kidnapping and murdering 5-year-old Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002, in the Patetown community.

If Lane is convicted of first-degree murder, the same jury would hand down his sentence -- either life in prison without parole or death. The sentencing process would involve as many as four steps that the state has explained to prospective jurors.

Two other men were excused by the defense without reason, but probably because of their strong opinions on the death penalty. The defense has used six of its 14 peremptory challenges to excuse potential jurors.

The state, represented by District Attorney Branny Vickory and assistants Jan Kroboth and Terry Light, interviewed six more jurors, one at a time, later Monday on their knowledge of the case and their views on the death penalty.

The prosecution used its seventh peremptory challenge to excuse one juror. Another juror was challenged for cause by both sides, because she had not formed an opinion on the death penalty.

Then the state questioned one new replacement juror at the end of the day. The prosecution was expected to finish its interviews of the new jurors this morning.

Those accepted by the state all said they accepted the death penalty but could consider life in prison as an appropriate punishment.

One called execution "the ultimate price." Another said he had "mixed feelings" but could vote either way.

A third said, "If that person committed the crime of murder, they deserve the death penalty." But after further questions from the state, he said he could follow the judge's instructions on the law and consider life in prison as a punishment.

Then defense lawyers Edwin L. West III of Wilmington and Richard of McNeil of Jacksonville will interview the panelists -- at first, one at a time to get their views on pretrial publicity and capital punishment and then later as a group on their knowledge of the witnesses and their own backgrounds.

Today marks the ninth day of jury selection that started Oct. 13. The trial, which began Oct. 11 with a competency hearing, is expected to take several more weeks.

Lane was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree statutory rape, first-degree sexual offense, taking indecent liberties of a minor and a lewd and lascivious act.