09/24/10 — Juror replaced in trial

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Juror replaced in trial

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 24, 2010 1:46 PM

Before continuing Jerome Wright's attempted murder trial on Thursday, presiding Judge Jack Jenkins dismissed one of the jurors and replaced him with an alternate.

It was brought to the court's attention that one of the jurors was seen talking to a man who was associated with the Wright family. The juror said the man only asked him for a ride and a cigarette, but the sheriff's deputy who reported the exchange said they spoke for two to three minutes outside the courthouse.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Ricks told the judge he was in favor of dismissing the juror because of the interaction. Defense Attorney William Bland argued against the juror's dismissal. He also pointed out that the juror is a black man and would be replaced by a white woman, although he didn't elaborate on why that would be significant.

Jenkins said the court was "going to err on the side of caution" and dismiss the juror.

Soon after, the state continued its case against Wright, 27, who is accused of trying to kill Goldsboro police Officer Clint Hales in June 2008.

Wright faces one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana.

Wright, who already is serving time for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The shooting occurred when Wright was stopped near the intersection of Elm and Creech streets because of a suspected taillight violation.

Ricks called Leon Stockton as a witness. Stockton works as a general surgeon for Carolina Surgical Associates and was on call at Wayne Memorial Hospital the night of the shooting. He performed the initial surgery on Hales.

"He had been shot in the left lower quadrant of his abdomen and had some type of injury to his left upper quadrant," Stockton said.

The injury to the upper part of his body was bruising that was the result of being shot while wearing a bullet-proof vest. Stockton added that there was no exit wound from the bullet. During surgery, Stockton repaired damage done to Hales' small intestine as well as other areas. He was also able to remove the bullet, which was located about two inches below the skin near Hales' right side.

In response to questions asked by Bland, Stockton said someone can become affected immediately after being shot and would be groggy or disoriented coming out of surgery and anesthesia.

The state finished for the day by questioning Neal Morin of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Morin examined the guns, casings and bullets recovered from the scene. He matched five casings to the Cobra 380 semi-automatic pistol found at the scene and matched 10 casing from the Glock 40-caliber used by Hales. Morin also said the bullet recovered from the bullet-proof vest worn by Hales was fired from the Cobra 380.

Morin also said when he received the evidence in late July 2008, the Cobra 380 was malfunctioning in that the safety mechanism was preventing the gun from firing properly.

Testimony in the case was expected to continue today.