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08/10/10 — Jury selection expected today

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Jury selection expected today

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 10, 2010 1:46 PM

Cesar Laurean spent less than an hour in Courtroom No. 1 Monday, as Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith recessed the former Marine's high-profile murder trial well before noon.

But during that time, those few dozen in attendance saw the accused show emotion several times -- at one point, he shared a laugh with a member of his legal team and, later, looked back at those families members who had shown up to support him -- his father, mother and two sisters.

Laurean, prosecutors contend, killed Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach in 2007 before fleeing to Mexico, where he was eventually taken into custody and extradited back to the U.S. to stand trial.

And after years of preparation, the state will finally get the opportunity to make its case to a jury -- selection was scheduled to begin this morning at 9:30.

Smith said Monday he would allow individual questioning of potential jurors to ensure they have not been tainted by pre-trial press reports and news coverage.

But several Goldsboro residents said hours after day one of the trial was in the books that they find it hard to believe that there are more than a handful of people in the country -- let alone the county -- who haven't heard about the case.

"They never would have taken me," said Cynthia Reed, who said she has followed the story since the search for Laurean began some three years ago. "I love watching stories like this. I think all human beings are drawn to drama in a way and this is drama. And let me tell you, the facts that I've seen don't look good for this guy. Let me ask you this: Why would he run to Mexico if he didn't kill that girl? And what was her body doing in his yard?"

Anthony Walker agreed.

"Even if he's innocent, he made himself look guilty as hell by running," he said. "Find me someone who hasn't seen this guy's face, someone who didn't hear about this thing and they must have been out to lunch for a year, you know what I'm saying? I mean, for many months, they gave a blow-by-blow account of what was going on with this thing. Was he in Mexico? Could he survive there, you know, being a Marine and all?"

The fact that those sentiments exist has already come into play.

In fact, pre-trial publicity is the reason the proceedings were moved to Wayne County.

Smith told the court that he expects the pool of potential jurors to come in somewhere between 60 and 70.

One man you won't find among them is retired Marine Bill Carr.

"And it's a good thing for that ex-Marine, let me tell you," he said. "99.9 percent of Marines wouldn't do something like this, but this guy, he's a worm. And the worst part of something like this, it turns the people against the Marine Corps."

Whether or not bias will play into the jury selection process remains to be seen.

But it seemed clear Monday that it is on the mind of prosecutors and Laurean's defense team.

Also decided Monday was that all potential witnesses, except certain family members, be allowed into the courtroom only when summoned.