05/26/05 — Six seated for Lane trial

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Six seated for Lane trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 26, 2005 1:45 PM

Six jurors were accepted Wednesday by the prosecution and the defense to hear the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane in Wayne County Superior Court.

The two sides will continue today to find the final six jurors. Once they agree on 12 jurors, they will choose three alternates.

The 33-year-old Lane is accused in connection with the kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield in 2002. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, then the same jury would decide his punishment, life in prison without parole or death.

The prosecution, represented by District Attorney Branny Vickory and Assistant D.A. Terry Light, passed 12 jurors to Lane early in the afternoon. Lane is representing himself.

After consulting with his standby lawyers, Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro and Richard McNeil of Jacksonville, Lane said he had no questions for the 12 panelists, but he excused six with peremptory challenges.

The remaining six include four black women, a white woman and a white man.

Twelve jurors were almost accepted in the morning by prosecutors. But when Vickory had a few final questions, one woman said she remembered that her husband, a taxi driver, had taken Lane around town.

Vickory used his sixth of 14 peremptory challenges to excuse the woman.

Then the final six jurors in the second of three panels were questioned by Judge Gary Trawick of Burgaw and the state. The judge excused four because they said they had formed an opinion of Lane's guilt or innocence based on pretrial publicity.

With no more jurors available, the trial was recessed about 45 minutes early. Members of the third panel will be questioned today and Friday to fill the jury and the alternate pool.

If the court runs out of jurors, then the court will consider alternate plans.

Trawick said he would not consider finding the no-shows from the original 300-person venire.

"If the no-shows aren't responsible enough to show up in court, then they are not responsible enough to sit on this case," the judge said.

Lane's first trial ended last November in a mistrial because of juror misconduct and an insufficient number of jurors.

In addition to murder, Lane is charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense, indecent liberties with a child and a lewd and lascivious act.

Lane was accused of the crimes May 17, 2002. The little girl's 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.