Race becomes an issue in jury selection

Choosing 12 “fair and impartial” men and women goes to 3rd day

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Day 1
* Day 2 part 1

ROCKINGHAM — When two more women were dismissed Tuesday afternoon by Richmond County Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton, defense attorneys for Alexander Ingram had a problem.

The two women were black. Ingram is black. The man he’s accused of killing on the night of Nov. 26, 2012, is white. If the 12 individuals currently sitting in the jurors’ box remain the same through the start of the 12, a group of six men and six women — but only three African-Americans — will decide whether or not Ingram, of Jackson Springs, is guilty in the beating death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr., the late owner of Norman General Store.

Attorney Frank Wells, who along with Stephen Freedman is tasked with defending Ingram, asked Richmond County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown to issue an order of prima facie that Layton was attempting to rid the jury of people that shared the same color of skin as Ingram.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Alexander Ingram is on trial for murder in the beating death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Alexander Ingram is on trial for murder in the beating death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

Race had nothing to do with the two dismissals, Layton said. Prospective Juror No. 4, she said, was removed because her brother was a victim of a homicide in Reading, Pa., and that the woman did not attend the funeral. The defense noted that Prospective Juror No. 12, a white man who has a second cousin employed by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and who had a first cousin murdered some 20 years ago, was allowed to remain. At the time, at least seven other black prospective jurors remained seated in the back three rows of the courtroom waiting to be randomly selected for vetting.

The other black woman, Layton said, said she was falsely accused of a crime. Again, race was not an issue, she said.

Judge Brown acknowledged that one half of the state’s challenges have included African Americans — and one half have not. Brown said he did not find a prima facie shown.

To date, 23 jurors have been seated and questioned. Seven have been excused and another seven have been subject to peremptory challenges — five by the state and two by the defense. Not including breaks and other times with prospective jurors have been outside Courtroom E on the third floor of the Richmond County Judicial Center, jury selection has now lasted six hours and 45 minutes.

Alexander Ingram and his nephew, Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram, of Candor, were charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Henry Ingram is being tried separately.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Richmond County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown emphasized prospective jurors to keep a safe distance from those they don't know.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Richmond County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown emphasized prospective jurors to keep a safe distance from those they don’t know.

Another woman among the 12 prospective jurors grew up with Layton and has worked with her mother for nearly two decades at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. The woman, now known as Prospective Juror No. 10, knows at least two others employed with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, including one on this case’s witness list, and also has a close relative in law enforcement. Wells asked her repeatedly if she could be fair and impartial. Initially she hesitated, then grew resolute in her answers.

“Do I know ’em,” the woman asked Wells rhetorically. “Yes. If I talk to you long enough, I might know you. I can be fair. I can put a tube in your mouth, pump on your chest and go eat lunch. It does not make a difference.”

Jury selection is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The trial is expected to last less than two weeks.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Defense attorneys Stephen Freedman, left, and Frank Wells, right, confer with Alexander Ingram, their client and the defendant in a murder trial in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Defense attorneys Stephen Freedman, left, and Frank Wells, right, confer with Alexander Ingram, their client and the defendant in a murder trial in the death of Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

 

 

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  • Joe DeBerry

    This Trial should be moved because of the Race issues that have started in this case and with all the problems from day one .IF it stays here whether he is Guilty or not he will be found guilty in this County and the Judge needs to have it sent to another county to give this man a chance at a Fair Trial . Foot prints means nothing he could of went over to see if the Victim was okay and could of had nothing to do with it as many after years in Prison in NC have been found not to be guilty after many years behind bars , so to prevent this with the disruptions this trial has had so far It should be moved.

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