April 07, 2015
Jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of a 29-year-old man continues for the fourth day Thursday, when nine jurors were dismissed after it was determined they overheard a conversation deemed inappropriate for jurors.
Seven jurors were seatedin the case of Montey Andrea Murray–charged with the March 2012 death of a 3-year-old boy–Wednesday afternoon when a potential juror reportedly had a conversation with Alexa Block, a WWAY TV-3 news reporter, about donating juror pay to the victim’s family.
Jurors are prohibited from speaking to reporters during a trial, including during jury selection, according to state law. News reporters, likewise, are not to have contact with jurors or potential jurors.
James Payne, a defense attorney representing Murray, made a motion to dismiss the entire jury pool based on the conversation between the reporter and the potential juror. Nine potential jurors who overheard the conversation were dismissed.
Brunswick County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis denied Payne’s motion, but allowed Payne and the State to re-interview jurors who were already seated.
“It’s shows a predisposition to convict,” Payne said about the conversation between the reporter and the potential juror.
Lewis also denied Payne’s change-of-venue motion to move the trial out of Brunswick County. Payne argued Murray–who is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole–could not receive a fair and impartial trial after Wednesday’s events.
“This is a first for me,” Payne said. “I have never had the jury…say ‘can we give money to the victim’s family?’ They’ve already prejudged his guilt. He can’t get a fair trial. And I renew my motion to change venue.”
Murray was indicted in August 2013 on charges of first-degree murder and felony child abuse in connection with death of Jaronn Ladale McAllister. Jaronn died at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia on March 1, 2012, according to District Attorney Jon David, who spoke to a Port City Daily reporter about the case after Murray’s indictment.
The day before Jaronn’s death, Murray went to his girlfriend’s apartment in Shallotte at 11:30 p.m., David said. Jaronn’s mother, who was reportedly dating Murray at the time, took his vehicle and went to work in Wilmington, leaving Jaronn at her home overnight with Murray and his cousin.
At about 9 a.m. March 1, Murray drove Jaronn to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead 15 minutes after arrival, David said. An autopsy revealed Jaronn died from blunt-force trauma, multiple contusions on his forehead, chest and stomach, and a lacerated liver.
Murray reportedly led police on “high-speed chase” after they tried to speak to him about the child’s death. Police stopped Murray’s vehicle and took him to the Brunswick County jail, where he remained under a $100,000 secured bond until his indictment on the murder charge about 18 months later.
Murray faces charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse resulting in serious injury or death, as well as two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and fleeing to elude arrest, which stemmed from the vehicle chase.
Port City Daily’s Christina Haley is in the courtroom. Check back for her updates from court.