07/03/05 — Alternate replaces missing juror in Lane trial

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Alternate replaces missing juror in Lane trial

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 3, 2005 2:00 AM

One of the three male jurors in the Eric Lane murder trial was excused Friday, and the first alternate, a female, took his place.

Lane, 34, is accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing, 5-year-old Precious Whitfield in 2002. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Court was delayed Friday for an hour-and-a-half as deputies from the sheriff's office looked for the missing juror.

At 11 a.m. Superior Court Judge Gary Trawick called the jurors into the courtroom, asking them to decide if they wanted to continue with an alternate or wait until Tuesday.

Trawick said it was unusual for him to ask the jury, but he thought the missing juror had been attentive during the trial.

The jury went back to the jury room to decide and came back with a split vote.

Some jurors thought serving on the jury had been difficult for the man because he was self-employed and had five children.

"It's seven to seven," one woman juror told the judge. "I think you better decide."

So the judge said that "since the juror failed to appear while everyone waited for an hour and a half, and since no one is at home or answers the phone, I order him removed."

After the new juror was seated, the prosecution introduced more evidence analyzed by experts at the state bureau of investigation laboratory.

James Gregory, a SBI forensic scientist, explained his method of analyzing fibers and hairs.

The jury was sent out of the room while defense attorney Glenn Barfield asked that terms such as being "associated with or being consistent with," be defined by the witness before the testimony.

The judge didn't agree with the request.

Gregory testified that he found items with blue film, such as the blue filmy substance on the tarp found on the road near Precious.

Those items included Lane's work gloves, his leather gloves, duct tape and electric tape from his residence.

The blue fragments were also found on bed sheets from Lane's home.

Gregory said the fragments "could have originated" from the blue tarp.

"Could have originated means it was that source or any other source that's made the same way," he said.

The jury was excused at 1 p.m. for the holiday weekend, but lawyers spent another half-hour arguing about discovery.

District Attorney Branny Vickory said his office had been supplied with a copy of a 2-page e-mail from one of the experts for the defense.

The e-mail was dated June 21.

Vickory said that the information was sketchy, and that the prosecution had given all information to the defense, reports and notes, well in advance.

"There's nothing fair about this to the state, and I plan to object," Vickory said.

The trial will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.