11/30/04 — Juror hearing set

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Juror hearing set

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 30, 2004 2:03 PM

A hearing to determine if a juror in the first-degree murder trial of Eric Glenn Lane should be held in contempt of court was continued Monday to Dec. 13.

Wayne C. Harrison, 71, of Pikeville was accused of making prejudicial comments in the jury pool room during jury selection for the trial in Wayne County Superior Court.

The hearing was continued at the request of lawyer Don Strickland, who was appointed to prosecute the case. Sullivan's court-appointed lawyer, Will Bland, did not object to the postponement.

Harrison had been excused from the jury because of his knowledge of the case and his strong feelings toward the death penalty.

However, when a possible alternate juror was questioned about her knowledge of the case, she said she did not live here when the murder was committed May 17, 2002. But she said she had heard about the case from a juror in the jury pool room.

The last two jurors seated also said they had heard the man make prejudicial remarks.

The two jurors and the alternate were present Monday and were told to return in two weeks.

The man allegedly had said that Lane deserved the death penalty, hangings and chain gang should be reinstituted and the defendant had been charged with many crimes and entered many not-guilty pleas.

Judge D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville presided over the four-week trial. He told Harrison that he faced a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $500 if he is found in contempt.

Hooks then disbanded the trial because of the comments and an insufficient number of remaining jurors to fill in.

Lane was accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering 5-year-old Precious Ebony Whitfield on May 17, 2002, in his home on Brandywine Drive in Patetown and then dumping her body in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge. The body was found two days later, and Lane was arrested the next day.

Hooks also allowed Lane to discharge his two court-appointed lawyers and defend himself with stand-by lawyers.

The trial is not expected to begin again until next year.