06/09/05 — Five jurors seated Wednesday in Lane trial

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Five jurors seated Wednesday in Lane trial

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 9, 2005 1:48 PM

Jury selection began again today for the state and defense in the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane in Wayne County Superior Court.

The 33-year-old Lane is accused in connection with the kidnap, rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield, who was visiting family friends on May 17, 2002, in Patetown.

Five jurors were accepted Wednesday afternoon when the defense finished its examination of 12 potential jurors the prosecution had accepted the previous day.

Defense lawyers Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro and Richard McNeil of Jacksonville used six of their 14 peremptory challenges to excuse jurors without reason.

The defense also challenged three jurors for cause, but Judge Gary Trawick of Burgaw allowed only one challenge because of pretrial publicity.

A second group of jurors who received weekend summonses arrived Wednesday morning. But one prospective juror was not happy about the summons.

When Trawick started to administer the oath to the panelists, one man objected strongly. Court officials said the man said he did not want to serve because his son had not been treated fairly when he was tried.

Trawick ordered that the man be kept in a chair just outside of the courtroom, within sight of the bailiffs. Later, he was excused from the trial.

The first trial ended Nov. 9 because of juror misconduct. One potential juror had expressed opinions about the case and possible punishments in the jury room. Two seated jurors and a possible alternate heard part of the comments. As a result Judge D. Jack Hooks Jr. of Wilmington declared a mistrial.

After general questions Wednesday, McNeil interviewed the jurors one at a time about their knowledge of the case from pretrial publicity or discussions with friends and their views on the death penalty.

A few panelists were excused for personal or medical reasons.

The trial started May 23, but jury selection was halted last week after less than six days. Lane, who at the time was representing himself, objected that the jury had been improperly selected. Both the state and defense had received the random lists of how the jurors would be called for interviews. Trawick allowed the motion.

Lane then asked that Barfield and McNeil represent him. Trawick scheduled a new jury selection for this week.

When the defense and the state, represented by District Attorney Branny Vickory and Assistant District Attorney Terry Light, agree on 12 jurors, then three alternates will be selected.

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

The little girl was abducted May 17, 2002. Her body was found two days later by people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. Lane was arrested and charged after an intense investigation.