02/18/05 — Lane trial starts May 23

View Archive

Lane trial starts May 23

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on February 18, 2005 2:10 PM

Eric Glenn Lane

Eric Glenn Lane will go on trial for the murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield on May 23.

The trial date was set Thursday by Judge Gary Trawick of Burgaw during a 30-minute hearing with prosecutors and standby defense lawyers in Wayne County Superior Court.

"I'm ready to get it over with," the 33-year-old Lane told the court.

But Lane also said he would never be truly prepared for trial because he cannot read the 4,000 pages of evidence that he received from the state.

Lane, who came to the courtroom in an orange jail jumpsuit and leg shackles, pleaded not guilty to all five felony charges, including first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape.

The original trial was recessed last November, four weeks into jury selection, because of juror misconduct and an insufficient number of jurors remaining from the 300-person panel.

The defendant, who fired his court-appointed lawyers last November, asked Trawick for help. The judge repeated later that he could not advise Lane on the law.

Trawick told Lane that he had asked him if he wanted his standby lawyers, Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro and Richard McNeil of Jacksonville, to visit him in prison. But the judge said Lane had refused their help.

"If you start the trial," Lane said, "I won't be ready. I won't never be ready. ... I'm ready to get it over with. ... I want to know a little bit about what's going on."

Before the trial started in October, Lane had asked to fire his lawyers, Edwin L. West III of Wilmington and McNeil. A few days later, he changed his mind and kept them. But when Judge D. Jack Hooks Jr. of Whiteville stopped the trial Nov. 9, Lane again asked to fire his lawyers. Hooks granted the request after mental health professionals had found the defendant competent enough to defend himself.

Lane on Thursday complained again that one of his standby lawyers, McNeil, was one of the two whom he had fired.

The defendant also complained that he was being harassed while being kept in a suicide-watch cell.

"I don't want someone checking my room every five minutes," Lane said. "... You won't allow me to have the help I want."

Trawick responded, saying he was not going to tell the prison system how to keep him secure.

Lane repeated that he did not understand "why I'm on a suicide watch."

Lane is charged with the first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree murder of the girl on May 17, 2002. He also is charged with a indecent liberties with a minor and a lewd and lascivious act.

The girl had been visiting family friends a few doors from Lane's home on Brandywine Drive in Patetown. She and a few friends then went to Lane's home. The other left, investigators say, but Precious stayed.

The girl's body was found two days later by people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. Lane was arrested the next day.

The next step in the trial process will come April 8, when Trawick will hear pretrial motions.

District Attorney Branny Vickory said the state's case will take about two weeks to present. He suggested that 400 jurors be summoned and that juror excuses be heard in front of the lawyers.

Trawick also granted the defense $2,500 for expenses to pay expert witnesses.