Alternates selected, opening statements set for Monday

Trial in murder of Michael Collins Sr. continues

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Previous coverage

* Medical emergency delays murder trial
‘At a particular place at a particular time’
Jury set in murder trial of Norman General Store owner
Prospective juror caught up in gambling ring
Race becomes an issue in jury selection
Defense works from “presumption of innocence”
Jury selection begins in murder trial

ROCKINGHAM — Finally.

It took seven and one-half hours to find 12 members to be a fair and impartial jury. Up to lunchtime Friday, it took a total of 3 hours and 49 minutes to find three more individuals deemed worthy enough to sit in on the trial of Alexander Ingram.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and defense attorneys Frank Wells (center) and Stephen Freedman confer at the bench.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and defense attorneys Frank Wells (center) and Stephen Freedman confer at the bench.

Ingram is charged with first-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr., former owner and operate of the Norman General Store in northern Richmond County.

The jury includes seven men and five women. Joining them in the jury box will be two women and one man who will be asked to follow along the entire proceedings and step in should one of the 12 regular jurors be unable to fulfill his or her duties. Jurors were told to report to the Richmond County Judicial Center at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. The trial is expected to finish by the close of business Thursday.

Of course, that depends on how fast the wheels of justice are spinning. Based on the past five days, there’s a pattern indicating justice moves along at a snail’s pace. Alternate Juror No. 1 was selected on Wednesday, and two more individuals were released after being questioned by Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and defense attorney Frank Wells, who, along with Stephen Freedman, is defending Ingram.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Defendant Alexander Ingram is on trial for murder in the beating death of Michael Collins Sr., the former Norman General Store owner.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Defendant Alexander Ingram is on trial for murder in the beating death of Michael Collins Sr., the former Norman General Store owner.

A third individual started to be questioned Wednesday and due to the late hour of the day, continued into today. Both she and her husband, also in the jury pool, were released for a number of medical issues suffered by family members.

Another 46 potential jurors reported to Courtroom E on Friday morning after only a few from the first pool remained. Six individuals had their jury service deferred for a range of issues, including medical and family reasons. The other 40 were sworn (or affirmed) the oath of a juror. At 10:55 a.m., a new prospective Alternate Juror No. 2 came to the box.

The East Rockingham man and Navy veteran was asked the routine series of questions about being fair and impartial. He was quick to tell Layton that it’s really quite simple:

“If you do your job, I will do mine.”

He’d told Layton that he expects law enforcement officers “to come with the truth.” Freedman wanted to ensure the man wouldn’t place the testimony of a police officer over anyone else’s. The man was quick to strike down such an idea.

“Oh no, they’ll tell a lie, too,” he said to the laughter of generally everyone in the courtroom, including Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown.

The man was retained as Alternate Juror No. 2. Attorneys needed only two tries to find the third and final alternate. The final selected alternate is a Rockingham mother of two who said she enjoys a good row every now and then.

“I like to get in a good debate,” the woman said when asked if she could maintain an opinion within the deliberations of a jury. “Everyone needs to get into a good argument every once in a while.”

Brown ordered the court in recess until 1:45 p.m. Friday, when — without jurors present — attorneys would make arguments on a series of motions, including one that involved Thomas Henry “Pete” Ingram, who also has been charged with first degree murder in Collins’ death. Thomas Ingram is being tried separately.

* * * 

Without much in the way of explanation, Brown ordered that members of the media no longer would be permitted to take photos in the courtroom.

“It’s become a bit of a distraction,” said Brown, without offering anything further.

When jury selection began Monday morning, Brown had at first banned the use of cameras within the courtroom. On Tuesday, he modified his order to limit the use of cameras only when prospective jurors were not in the courtroom.

Precedent indicates that though cameras are permitted in North Carolina courtrooms, though the trial judge — Brown, in this case — still retains final approving authority.

On June 25, 1990, the N.C. Supreme Court adopted permanent rules allowing cameras in the courtroom. Rule 15 of the General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts was amended to make the experimental rules permanent. Most importantly from the perspective of the news media and the public, court proceedings are now presumptively open to broadcast and still photographic coverage. The trial judge retains discretion to allow or not allow coverage. Under the current rules, reporters must simply exercise good judgment and common sense in securing prior permission of the court for television, radio or still photographic coverage.

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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