08/11/10 — Lawyers down to 50 potential jurors

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Lawyers down to 50 potential jurors

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 11, 2010 1:46 PM

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Cesar Laurean, center, is escorted from the courtroom at the Wayne County Courthouse by Wayne and Onslow county sheriff's deputies Tuesday during a break in his murder trial. Laurean is accused of killing a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was pregnant. Jury selection began Tuesday and continued today.

A jury pool of 50 was pared down Tuesday inside the Wayne County Courthouse, as Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith and attorneys representing the state and alleged first-degree murderer Cesar Laurean had their first interactions with potential jurors.

And of those dozens led in shortly before 10 a.m., only 30 made it through the preliminary round of questioning -- one Smith called for Monday to ensure those exposed to and swayed by pre-trial publicity would be excused.

But the number of potential jurors was down to 39 before questioning regarding pre-conceived opinions about Laurean's guilt or innocence began -- 11 were dismissed due to hardships, from a Hispanic man who said he simply did not feel he had an adequate grasp of the English language to a black woman who said she recently suffered a stroke and feared the emotional stress associated with a murder trial could be detrimental to her health.

Of the 39 who remained after hardships were addressed by the court, 19 were white men, 11 were white women, five were black men and four were black women.

And shortly before Smith recessed for lunch, two members of that pool were let go -- one white man said he did not believe he could set aside what he had heard regarding the case and another agreed, saying, "I think he's guilty."

After court resumed, seven more potentials would be excused for having doubts about whether or not they could set aside opinions formed when the story broke in January 2008.

Of the 30 who now remain, 12 are white men, 10 are white women, four are black men and four are black women.

Jury selection is expected to continue this morning.

Whether or not Laurean will be present in the courtroom remains to be seen -- the defendant was present inside Courtroom No. 1 for the duration of Tuesday's proceedings, as were his father, mother and two sisters.