06/15/05 — Lane trial down to three alternates

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Lane trial down to three alternates

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 15, 2005 1:45 PM

Selection of three alternate jurors for the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane resumed today in Wayne County Superior Court.

Judge Gary Trawick of Burgaw said he hoped he could start the trial on Thursday. The defense asked for more time to interview expert witnesses but got no assurances from the judge.

The final four jurors were seated Tuesday -- three women and a man.

Lane, 33, who worked in the family's electrician business, is accused in connection with the kidnap, rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Ebony Whitfield more than three years ago in the Patetown community.

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

The defense accepted two of the final four panelists passed Monday by the state. One was an elementary school teacher who was a juror on a double-murder trial in January 2001. The defendant is serving two consecutive life sentences. The other was a manager of a pizza restaurant.

The state, represented by District Attorney Branny Vickory and Assistant District Attorney Terry Light, then passed two more possible jurors to the defense.

Defense lawyers Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro and Richard McNeil of Jacksonville accepted a newspaper employee and a retired Social Security administration employee.

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

The little girl had lived with her mother in the Saulston community. On May 17, 2002, she was visiting family friends on Brandywine Drive, a few doors from Lane's home. Lane had a swing set in his yard, and Precious and other neighborhood children were playing on it. The other children left, but Precious stayed.

The little girl was not reported missing until the next morning. Then the Sheriff's Office launched an intense investigation. Her body was found the next day by people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. Lane was arrested and charged a few days later. He has been held without bond.

Lane's original trial ended Nov. 9, 2004, in a mistrial because of juror misconduct during the selection of alternates. When the trial resumed May 23, it was stopped again during the selection of alternates, because the random process had been compromised and Trawick upheld Lane's motion to dismiss the jurors.