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03/19/14 — Jury seated

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Jury seated

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 19, 2014 1:46 PM

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News-Argus/SETH MABRY

Leonard Joyner confers with his attorney, Charles Gurley, during court. Joyner is answering charges regarding his role in the 2012 murder of Kennedy McLaurin.

He won't use fingerprints.

He won't produce DNA evidence or a murder weapon.

Instead, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge will try the case against Leonard Eugene Joyner "old school style."

Opening arguments do not begin until today, but the man charged with making the state's case against one of four men accused in the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr. told prospective jurors exactly how he planned to prove that Joyner deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.

And by 4 p.m., 15 local residents -- 12 jurors and three alternates -- were impaneled and told to return to the Wayne County Courthouse this morning.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones said opening arguments would begin at 10 a.m. in a first-degree murder trial that began in September 2012 when a 16-year-old went missing.

Joyner, the only one of the four suspects who has not yet pleaded guilty in the case, sat quietly throughout the daylong jury selection process.

The victim's mother, Kimberly Best, and his grandmother, Janice Robinson, fixtures at most of the hearings leading up to the trial, also sat patiently throughout the day.

"I'm just tired," Ms. Best said. "It was so long, but I am happy we finally have a jury."

She has been looking for answers since Kennedy went missing Sept. 9, 2012.

Delbridge told the jurors that the answer, while not simple, was clear -- that they should throw out what they have seen in TV crime dramas and focus on eyewitness accounts of just what happened from the moment Kennedy got into a car on Bain Street until his body was found buried in a wooded area in Seven Springs.

Many of the witnesses he intends to call have records, including drug charges, he said.

Many of them still live at-risk lifestyles.

But it will be up to the jurors, Delbridge said, to look beyond their backgrounds and focus on "human nature" to determine the "real truth."

Defense attorney Charles Gurley implied Tuesday that he will use a claim of self-defense to explain whatever role Joyner might have played in the death and disappearance of McLaurin -- asking many potential jurors if they believed in self-defense, if they owned guns or if any of them had ever had a loaded weapon pointed at them or been the victim of an armed robbery.

All said they believed in self-defense.

A few of them said they own guns.

And one woman who made it on the jury said she had a loaded gun pointed at her in the past, but that nobody was ever charged with a crime as a result of it.

The jury consists five black women, one black man, three white men and three white women. The three alternates include one black man, one black woman and one white woman.

-- Assistant News Editor Kenneth Fine contributed to this report.