11/04/04 — Twelve jurors picked in Lane trial

View Archive

Twelve jurors picked in Lane trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 4, 2004 1:58 PM

A 12th juror has been seated to hear the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane in Wayne County Superior Court.

The panelist, a retiree, was accepted Wednesday afternoon, the 15th day of jury selection, by the state and the defense. He joined five other men and six women.

The next step will be the selection of alternate jurors who would serve if any of the original 12 were released because of a personal emergency.

The first prospective alternate was excused by the state at the end of the afternoon session.

Two alternate jurors are required by law to hear a first-degree murder case, but as many as two more also could be chosen. Judge D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville has said he was not sure if there would be more than two.

Lane was accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering 5-year-old Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002, in his home on Brandywine Drive in Patetown. The little girl's body was found two days later by several people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. Lane was arrested and charged a day later.

If the 33-year-old Lane is convicted of first-degree murder, then the same jury would decide his punishment -- life in prison without parole or death.

Earlier Wednesday, defense lawyers Edwin L. West III of Wilmington and Richard McNeil of Jacksonville used their 14th and last peremptory challenge to excuse a prospective juror, a telephone company employee, without reason.

Then the 11th juror, a woman medical technician, was accepted.

Later the defense said it should have additional peremptory challenges. West argued that the defense had to use peremptories to excuse panelists when challenges for cause should have been allowed by the court.

"It's not my job to keep up with the defense records," Judge Hooks said. "I have enough trouble keeping up with my own."

Hooks denied six requests, but later did reverse one ruling and gave the defense one more peremptory challenge.

Before the last juror was accepted, Hooks allowed two challenges for cause. A man said he would accept only the death penalty. A woman said she would have a hard time listening to testimony about alcohol abuse.

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

The trial started Oct. 11 with a two-day competency hearing. Jury selection started Oct. 13.

The state, represented by District Attorney Branny Vickory and assistants Jan Kroboth and Terry Light, is not expected to begin its case until next week.