Jury Begins Deliberations In Eric Lane Murder Trial
Posted July 7, 2005 5:50 a.m. EDT
GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Jury deliberation began Thursday just hours after attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments in the second murder trial of a Wayne County man accused of raping and killing a 5-year-old girl in 2002.
"As soon as this is over, everybody can have their closure and everybody can start healing over again," said Precious Whitfield's mother, Michelle Whitfield.
In closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors focused on hair and other DNA evidence they said proved Eric Lane raped and killed the child by stuffing her in a trash bag and throwing it in the river. They described in great detail how she was still alive and fighting back when she was put in the bag.
"It was hard for me to hear that she did fight, the she did try and she is a fighter," Whitfield said. "It was hard for me to hear that she was still alive at the time and that he did all this stuff to her."
Prosecutors also reminded jurors that Lane confessed to the crime.
Lane's attorneys argued that investigators coerced a false confession from their client and reminded jurors that Lane is an alcoholic with a low mental capacity, who could not read the written confession statement he had signed.
Defense attorneys also said investigators focused on building a case against Lane and ignored other leads pointing elsewhere.
Jurors deliberated for over an hour Thursday before they asked to review more DNA evidence. The court clerk said it would be Friday before it could be given to them. Jurors will reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday to continue deliberations.
If the jury convicts Lane of first-degree murder, it will also have to determine whether to sentence Lane to life in prison or the death penalty.
Last year, Lane's original trial was delayed because of questions about his mental state. A judge later declared a mistrial because of juror misconduct. Lane fired his previous attorneys last fall and previously represented himself until May. The case hit another roadblock when the judge granted Lane's motion to start over with jury selection in May.
Michelle Whitfield said she believes Lane is guilty and should pay for the death of her daughter.
"Now that I've heard everything, I hope he does get the death penalty for it. I really do," she said.
Precious Whitfield's grandfather, John Whitfield, has said if Lane is convicted, he wants him locked in a cell for life with photos of his granddaughter taped to the wall.
"Maybe not only just a picture of her, but a picture of her at her death," Whitefield said. "A picture of how she looked when they found her. I think that would change his mind."