08/12/10 — Jury is picked; now trial begins

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Jury is picked; now trial begins

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 12, 2010 1:46 PM

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Richard T. McNeil, left, a lawyer representing ex-Marine Cesar Laurean in his murder trial, is helped by investigator Jerry L. Waller as they enter the Wayne County Courthouse in Goldsboro on Tuesday morning. Laurean is accused of killing Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was pregnant at the time of her death in late 2007. The trial was moved from Onslow County because of pre-trial publicity.

After only two days, jury selection for Cesar Laurean's first-degree murder trial was completed Wednesday afternoon inside the Wayne County Courthouse, leaving both the defense counsel and prosecutors satisfied not only with the makeup of the panel, but with the pace of the proceedings.

"I'm thrilled that we were able to get the jury by today," said Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who was expected to give the state's opening argument this morning.

Laurean's attorney, Dick McNeil, agreed, characterizing the group as "conscientious" and "candid."

But he went a step further, acknowledging how pleased he was that two former Marines would be among the group charged with determining his client's fate.

"I think that will be helpful," he said. "We're anxious to get started."

Hudson said he "didn't know" whether having former Marines on the jury would hurt or help the state's case.

But he did say "we're very happy" about the 12 Wayne County residents ultimately chosen from a group that started at 50.

The jury, in its current form, includes six white women, four white men, one black man and one black woman.

Several of them have daughters, and one has been the victim of domestic abuse.

Three alternates also were chosen to serve.

Laurean, who faces life in prison if convicted in the 2007 murder of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, smiled several times during conversations with his legal team throughout Wednesday's proceedings.

But McNeil acknowledged the success of the defense's case would be based, largely, on how he presents it to the court -- and jury.

"It's really hard to be a trial lawyer. You have to be on the entire time. You have to be constantly focused," he said. "So we're anxious to go, but we realize we have work to do here."