Jury selection stalls in Buckman trial

Published 1:14 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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The Wisezah Datawn Buckman Dare County Superior Court murder trial entered its fifth day of activity with little jury selection progress.

After 11 jurors were released from jury duty Friday afternoon, Monday’s progress toward filling those empty seats was slowed by additional defense motions, repeated sequestered jury sessions, and a long session of questions – and sometimes repeated questions – by counsel for the defense throughout the day.

Getting an early start, defense attorney Christine Malumphy filed new motions prior to the start of court asking Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett declare a mistrial since juror excuses were not recorded and requested some of the security measures in place be changed.

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After advising that there cannot be a mistrial before the jury is empaneled, Judge Tillett reminded Malumphy that juror excuses were heard as agreed upon the first day of trial with attorneys at the bench taking notes. He went on to say there were no objections during the process.

Assistant District Attorney Kim Pellini advised that she thought everyone took notes and that the process was agreed to by everyone involved.

When asked to name any one juror that Malumphy could not hear or object to, she was unable to provide any names and added that there was valuable information that should have been recorded.

Judge Tillett denied the request on the grounds that there cannot be a mistrial without a jury in place, and asked if there was anything new related to court security.

Malumphy advised that the restrictions on touching the defendant were too strict and could lead to an assumption that her defendant is not human and were in place in part to avoid the jury see a white woman interacting with black man.

Judge Tillett advised that there would be no touching or rubbing backs and hugs would not be allowed; not that it had been done, but that it should not be done. He then added that Buckman is in the custody of prison security officers, not the Dare County sheriff and that motion was denied again.

Returning to the voir dire process, by late afternoon Pellini had a jury panel of five men and seven women she was satisfied with.

Malumphy advised she was looking for core attitudes, feelings and beliefs followed by the same graphic detailed account she offered last week about how her client, who is serving 32 years for murder, would be seen in a video killing someone.

Immediately halting the process, Judge Tillett advised Malumphy she was told not to make that statement and she has again contaminated the entire jury and added that it seems she is bent on defying court instructions.

Malumphy defended her actions, saying she did not have notes on what specific questions not to ask and that it was asinine to ask jurors to be impartial without knowing what they need to be impartial about.

“It’s important to know this and we need to know this now,” offered Malumphy.

Judge Tillett responded that in that case there would be no reason to not try the whole case in the jury selection process.

It didn’t bode well with some potential jurors since a couple said they thought Malumphy was bullying and badgering them.

Malumphy said she was just trying to get to their true feelings.

After a long eight hours court recessed a little after 5 p.m. with an announcement that jurors were to return Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

With only one juror approved by both sides, the four men and seven women in the jury box at day’s end were not the same 11 that started there Monday morning.