06/16/05 — 21 up, 21 down, Lane jury selection continues

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21 up, 21 down, Lane jury selection continues

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 16, 2005 1:45 PM

Twenty-one jurors were interviewed Wednesday for the first alternate position in the first-degree murder trial of 33-year-old Eric Glenn Lane. None was accepted. Three are needed to hear the case.

The result left Judge Gary Trawick of Burgaw frustrated. He had hoped to start testimony today in Wayne County Superior Court, but now it will be pushed back, at least to Friday and maybe to next week.

At the end of the day, Trawick urged prosecutors and defense lawyers to quicken the pace of their interviews. He told them that there was no need to go through a long list of questions if it was obvious that the panelist would not be accepted.

"The longer this goes on," the judge said, "there is more opportunity for something to happen."

Lane went on trial in November in connection with the rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield in May 2002.

A mistrial was declared on Nov. 9 because of juror misconduct. The second trial started in May but jury selection was halted six days after it had started because the random selection had been compromised.

Choosing a third jury has taken several weeks, with hundreds of people being summoned, questioned and sent home.

On Wednesday, the two sides spent an hour questioning the final juror before she was excused.

Among those excused Wednesday were a probation officer, a friend of Lane and a teacher who knew several witnesses and lived close to where the victim's body was found.

Lane, who worked in his family's electrician business, was charged with killing the girl after she had visited family friends on Brandywine Drive, a few doors from Lane's home. Her body was found two days later by people fishing in Nahunta Creek.

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