Jury selection for 1992 Jim Burns homicide may last until Thursday

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 21, 2012 

Jury selection in the cold case murder trial of Kareem L. Lane likely won't be finished until Thursday, Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters said Tuesday.

Lane, 37, is charged with murder in the 1992 fatal stabbing of former Muscogee County School District Superintendent Jim Burns. Prosecutors say DNA evidence from a knife found near Burns matched Lane's saliva samples during forensic testing many years after the crime.

Attorneys on Tuesday continued their individual questioning of prospective jurors, who have been told to plan for possibly a two or three-week trial once testimony begins Sept. 4. Tuesday's session featured frequent objections from Lane's defense attorney, Stacey S. Jackson, who accused prosecutors of revealing too many facts about the case in their questioning.

One question that drew an objection was whether prospective jurors could believe a high school senior would be capable of planning and carrying out a murder. Peters called some of the questions "borderline," and asked prosecutors to rephrase them to avoid having to try the case again.

Prosecutors have sought to explore whether prospective jurors have any biases about race or preconceptions about DNA evidence. Another line of inquiry has centered on whether potential jurors think musical lyrics might reflect real-life events.

Prosecutors are trying to introduce at least one song recorded by Lane that contains references to violence, but Peters hasn't yet ruled whether it will be admitted into evidence. Court officials are preparing for what could be a lengthy trial after Labor Day.

On Monday, prosecutors listed up to 89 witnesses they may call, while the defense has submitted a list with about 16 names. The proceedings are the culmination of a cold-case investigation into what had been one of Columbus' most intriguing murder mysteries. Conspiracy theories abounded at the time of Burns' death because of his rocky relationship with some Muscogee County School Board members.

Lane had been questioned shortly after the stabbing but was released after police failed to link him to Burns' Broadway home. He had been stopped driving a pickup that fit the description of a vehicle spotted leaving Burns' neighborhood after the stabbing. Investigators said they found an empty knife sheath in his pickup, a pair of gloves, a mask with eye holes, a switchblade knife and a BB pistol. At the time, Lane was a 17-year-old Shaw High School student living in the Midland area.

He's pleaded not guilty to the charges. Jackson has adamantly maintained Lane had nothing to do with the slaying.

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