It was another day of jury selection in the murder trial of Rayquan Borum. Borum faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Justin Carr. Prosecutors say Carr was shot and killed in uptown Charlotte the second night of protests after the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. Scott was killed by a CMPD police officer in September 2016.
Jury selection appears to be dragging as there have been at least 13 jurors excused from their service after questions from the state and defense. Even the judge expressed some concern over the pace of jury selection.
WFAE's Sarah Delia spoke with "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey about the trial.
Mark Rumsey: So Sarah from what you’ve observed, is this process taking a little longer than usual?
Sarah Delia: Jury selection, in general, can be a tedious process, especially for the jurors who have to sit through the whole thing, but it’s important. You don’t want to have a situation where a juror has a personal bias or isn’t truly up for the task of serving on a jury, that can delay deliberations or lead to a mistrial.
But this process is taking a long time because jurors are having to go through an initial questioning about their media consumption around the death of Justin Carr and the arrest of Rayquan Borum. Sometimes that means emptying out the courtroom so it’s just that juror being questioned. And that is slowing things down.
Every time a juror has been excused, the questioning process about the media has to start from the beginning, so it feels like it’s a very start-stop process. Both sides are trying to weed out people who have made up their minds about the case because of what they’ve seen on the news or social media.
[Related Content: Prosecutors Say Borum Was Aiming At Police When He Shot, Killed Justin Carr]
Rumsey: What are some of the reasons people have been excused from this jury?
Delia: The court is working through a jury pool of 52. As of this morning, 13 people have been excused. Three were from this morning. One person said that their sister had been murdered and that he wouldn’t be able to be fair to either side.
Another person said that they worked in the funeral industry and actually had conversations with the Carr family when they were making arrangements for Justin Carr’s funeral. He said: “I met with the Carr family and talked with them and cried with them.”
He said that the conversations he had with the Carr family would be hard to put out of his mind throughout the course of the trial.
The final person that was excused this morning was a woman who said she had concerns about her ability to be a fair juror after something Assistant District Attorney Glenn Cole said in court yesterday, which was that the state has evidence that they believe shows Borum was actually trying to shoot a police officer. Cole said they had video evidence and statements from Borum as well as a witness who was there to corroborate that. This woman said she had many friends who were police officers and that it would impossible for her to put aside her personal opinions about someone intentionally harming a police officer. She said she wanted Borum to have a fair trial but that she had already decided what the facts were.
Rumsey: So how is the judge feeling about jury selection at this point?
Delia: Well, I haven’t personally spoken to Judge Hayes but from the comments he’s made on the bench, it appears he’s getting frustrated. After the third person was excused he said: “OK, at this point, we’re going backward.”
He cautioned that if they weren’t able to come up with a jury from this pool, another pool would have to be called and the chances of eliminating media bias at that point would be near impossible.
Rumsey: Well besides the media related questions, what other questions have been asked?
Delia: Today the state started to dig into more questions trying to understand the perspective of jurors and to see if they can put those perspectives aside to be fair. So questions were asked about whether or not people had shot a gun before — why or why not? Did they have any judgments against people who had dreadlocks? Glenn Cole pointed out both Borum and Carr had dreadlocks and were African-American. The state said there would be some photos shown of Carr’s injuries that are graphic — could they handle that?
The state also asked people about their perception around the police and asked potential jurors if they had positive or negative stories about interactions with police.
Both sides have pointed out that it’s not wrong for people to have their own perspectives or opinions, the big question is can they put those perspectives and opinions aside and look at the facts that are presented to them during the trial.
The state has finished questioning 12 potential jurors which means it’s the defense's turn.