12/09/04 — Lane gets second lawyer

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Lane gets second lawyer

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 9, 2004 1:58 PM

Eric Glenn Lane, charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering a 5-year-old girl more than two years ago, will be assisted by two standby lawyers in next year's trial in Wayne County Superior Court.

Judge Jerry Braswell of Goldsboro ordered that Lane have a second lawyer to join Richard McNeil of Jacksonville, one of the defendant's two original court-appointed lawyers. The second lawyer has not been chosen.

The 33-year-old Lane was accused of murdering Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002, in his home on Brandywine Drive in Patetown and then dumping her body in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. The body was found two days later, and Lane was arrested the next day after an intense investigation.

Braswell scheduled a hearing Feb. 7 on the appointment of the standby lawyers. The judge said the trial could start as early as March.

During a brief hearing this week, Lane had objected to the appointment of a second standby lawyer. McNeil appeared with Lane in court.

Lane had asked to fire McNeil and lawyer Edwin L. West III of Wilmington at the end of jury selection on Nov. 8.

At the time, Judge D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville ordered that Lane be evaluated at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh to determine his competency to represent himself. A hospital psychiatrist and a defense psychologist testified Nov. 23 that the eighth-grade dropout had very limited reading and writing skills.

After a three-hour hearing, Hooks allowed Lane to discharge the lawyers.

Lane also had asked to fire West and McNeil during a hearing on a pretrial motion Oct. 1 but then changed his mind a few days later.

Meanwhile, a man who was excused from jury service for Lane's trial is scheduled to appear Monday in Superior Court to answer why he should not be held in contempt for alleged prejudicial comments in the jury pool room.

Wayne C. Harrison, 71, of Wayne Memorial Drive, Pikeville, could face a sentence of up to 30 days or a fine of up to $500.

The last two seated jurors testified that they had heard a man say that death was an appropriate punishment, hangings and chain gangs should be reinstituted and Lane faced numerous charges and had entered many not-guilty pleas.

Harrison has denied the allegations.

The man's statements did not come to the court's attention until a prospective alternate juror said she knew nothing about the case until she heard the comments in the jury pool room.