06/10/05 — Juror in Lane trial questioned over comments

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Juror in Lane trial questioned over comments

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 10, 2005 1:49 PM

Jury selection in the Eric Lane murder trial almost hit a snag again Thursday when the defense questioned whether a member of the jury pool had talked about the case with other possible jurors.

Lane's first trial ended in a mistrial in November when a juror was found guilty of talking about the case outside the courtroom.

On Thursday, defense lawyer Glenn Barfield asked that a juror that had been excused by the court be detained and questioned.

Barfield said he suspected the juror had been talking about the case with other prospective jurors. But after questioning, the man was permitted to leave.

Lane is on trial for the rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield three years ago.

Jury selection for this trial has been slow. Hundreds of Wayne residents have been summoned to court over the past few weeks in an attempt to seat 12 people to hear the case. A jury had been seated last week when both the defense and prosecution agreed the fairness of the selection process had been compromised and the process was started all over again.

Prospective jurors were reminded Thursday by District Attorney Branny Vickory about the seriousness of the case. Lane could face the death penalty if found guilty.

"Things you hear and see in this case may forever change your life," Vickory said. "...There has never been anything more serious or important for you" to do.

Five jurors have been approved by the prosecution and the defense. Vickory said he hopes to approve seven more today and pass them to the defense for questioning.

Lane's lawyers have used six peremptory challenges to excuse jurors.

When both sides agree on 12 jurors, three alternates will be chosen. Judge Gary Trawick has said he wants three alternates instead of the usual two.

If he is convicted of first-degree murder, the same 12 jurors would determine his punishment, either life in prison without parole or execution.

Lane also is charged with first-degree kidnapping, taking indecent liberties with a child and committing a lewd and lascivious act.