DURHAM — A judge excused several jurors Tuesday during the first day of Crystal Mangum’s murder trial because they said they had strong opinions about her they wouldn’t be able to ignore.
When court recessed for the day, the prosecutor and Mangum’s attorney had agreed on seven jurors: six men and one woman.
Mangum is on trial for murder in the death of her boyfriend, Reginald Daye. She is accused of stabbing Daye at his apartment on April 3, 2011; he died at Duke Hospital on April 13, 2011.
It is expected that she will claim she stabbed Daye in self-defense.
About 70 people were called for jury duty Tuesday. Before they came to the courtroom, the potental jurors filled out a questionnaire asking if they were familiar with Mangum, if they had strong opinions about her and if they could set aside those opinions and only consider the evidence presented during this trial.
Those who said they didn’t think they could put their opinions aside were excused from serving.
During jury selection, the potential jurors were asked what their favorite TV show was; if they were members of any clubs or organizations; if they or someone they knew had been a victim of a crime; if they knew any police officers; if they would give more credence to a police officer’s testimony than someone else’s testimony; what kind of work they did; and whether they knew any of the witnesses, among other things.
Before jury selection began, Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway heard four motions that Mangum’s attorney, Daniel Meier, filed over the weekend.
Meier filed a motion to continue the case in light of the news that Clay Nichols, the medical examiner who did the autopsy on Daye, is under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, he said.
The SBI has completed its investigation, but the report has not been made public. Meier said he wanted to learn the results of the investigation to determine if anything in the report could affect his defense of Mangum.
Ridgeway told Meier and Assistant District Attorney Charlene Franks that he has read the report, communicated with the SBI agent who conducted the investigation and with Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, who is considering whether to file criminal charges against Nichols based on the report.
“What I’ve reviewed and the information that I have is (that) the subject matter of that investigation is not related in any way to the subject matter of this case,” Ridgeway said.
Nichols’ testimony and his credibility could be critical during Mangum’s trial. Some of Mangum’s supporters say Daye’s medical records indicate he may have died after someone at Duke Hospital wrongly inserted a breathing tube into his esophagus, which prevented oxygen from going into his lungs.
Another motion that Meier filed asked for a hearing to determine if Nichols still qualifies as an expert witness. He also asked for Nichols’ personnel records. The judge said he would consider those motions later.
Deborah Radisch, the chief medical examiner of North Carolina, was on the prosecutor’s witness list and she may also testify during Mangum’s trial.
Meier also asked for any mental health evaluations or psychological tests that the state may have obtained about Mangum when she was considered the victim in the Duke lacrosse case. The judge denied the motion but said he would continue to think about it.
Mangum accused members of the Duke lacrosse team of raping her at a party in 2006 when they hired her to perform as a stripper, and the case received local and national attention from the media. The charges against the players were later dropped after it was determined the evidence did not back up her story.
The trial is expected to last five to seven days after a 12-member jury and alternate jurors are selected.
Jury selection is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning