01/04/05 — Accused killer asks for and gets 4,000 pages of evidence

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Accused killer asks for and gets 4,000 pages of evidence

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 4, 2005 2:02 PM

Eric Glenn Lane, who is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 5-year-old girl more than two years ago, now wants a copy of the 4,000 pages of evidence that the state has accumulated.

The new judge assigned to hear the trial agreed with Lane's request on Monday, because the defendant, an eighth-grade dropout, is representing himself in Wayne County Superior Court. The decision, though, left prosecutors frustrated.

The hearing came almost two months after Lane's original trial was stopped because of juror misconduct. A possible juror had commented about the case in the jury pool room.

Lane's request for the evidence -- a procedure called discovery -- probably will cause another delay in the trial. His two original court-appointed lawyers and his current standby lawyers already had a copy of the evidence.

Lane was charged with the first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree murder of Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002, in his home on Brandywine Drive in Patetown. Her body was found two days later by people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge.

Lane was arrested and charged the next day.

When the four-week trial was suspended Nov. 9, Lane asked to fire his court-appointed lawyers and to represent himself. Following an evaluation at Dorothea Dix Hospital and a court hearing, the previous judge, D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville, granted the defendant's motion although he noted that Lane was almost illiterate.

Lane admitted that he could barely read and write and said he had help in preparing a previous motion to fire his lawyers. He later withdrew the motion.

The new judge, Gary Trawick of Burgaw, asked Lane several times if he wanted to represent himself. The judge expressed his concern, but the defendant made it plain that he wanted to do so.

Trawick scheduled a hearing March 21 to determine how Lane was doing in sifting through the evidence. The judge also agreed that he might have a preliminary hearing in February.

One of Lane's two original court-appointed lawyers, Richard McNeil of Jacksonville, has been appointed to represent the defendant with Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro as standby counsels. Edwin L. West III of Wilmington was the other court-appointed lawyer for the original trial.

Lane, who is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh, has said he wanted to be housed in the Wayne County Jail. But for now, he was returned to Raleigh. Jail officials have said they do not have the space in their overcrowded building to clear a secure area for one inmate.

District Attorney Branny Vickory and two assistants, Jan Kroboth and Terry Light, are prosecuting the case.