Dress code causes delays in Montgomery trial; no jurors selected

Dress code causes delays in Montgomery trial; no jurors selected


by NewsChannel 36 / Charlotte Observer


Posted on August 26, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 26 at 6:37 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Accused cop killer Demeatrius Montgomery entered a Mecklenburg County courtroom Thursday wearing an orange jumpsuit.

It was a stark contrast to the dress suit and tie he wore a day earlier, which the judge had requested.

Montgomery, who is accused of killing two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers in 2007, refused Thursday to comply with the judge's dress code.

Montgomery's clothes became yet another bizarre detail in the trial, which is now in its fourth day.

The judge instructed potential jurors to ignore Montgomery's outfit. Jury selection is now in its second day, but so far, no one has been seated.

Among the jurors dismissed Thursday was a man who said he knew the grandmother of one of the prosecutors, as well as a man who told the court he knew at least five people who could be called as witnesses in the trial.

A total of 11 prospective jurors have been dismissed.

Jury selection is expected to continue next week. In a methodical process, attorneys are probing potential jurors’ beliefs and connections to people involved in the case. The questioning at times is intrusive for jurors, who are asked to answer personal questions in a room full of strangers.

On Wednesday, one man talked about the suicide of his son, which came after the adolescent had been charged with several crimes.

"The experience was painful," the man said. "Coming back here was painful and extreme to some extent. But I like to think I could be fair. ... I would like to think that those emotions would not affect my rational mind."

Montgomery's trial began Monday with pre-trial motions and the revelation that a detective in the case had discarded some of his investigation notes. That led Judge Forrest Bridges on Tuesday to ban prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, saying there could be a "cloud of suspicion" over the proceedings.

On Wednesday, prosecutors decided they would not appeal the death penalty ban. Bridges ruled that Montgomery was competent to stand trial -- despite his refusal to discuss the case with his defense attorneys.

Also Wednesday, attorneys argued over a potential second suspect in the case, who bears a resemblance to Montgomery.

Montgomery's attorneys say a Mecklenburg jail inmate told police that a man named Octavious Elmore confessed to the killings. The inmate also claimed he saw Elmore near the crime scene that night, the attorneys said.

They told the judge Wednesday they want to tell the jury about Elmore, but prosecutors argue the inmate's story clearly contradicts the facts of the case and therefore should not be allowed in the trial.

Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges said he would rule later on prosecutors' motion to keep jurors from hearing about Elmore.

In court Thursday, Montgomery continued to maintain silence, as he has for the entire trial. But he still managed to cause a stir when he emerged from his holding cell in his jail uniform.

His attorneys asked for a brief recess so Montgomery's father could try to persuade the Montgomery to change into civilian clothes -- as his aunt had done on Wednesday. During the first hours of jury selection Wednesday afternoon, Montgomery sat in the courtroom in black slacks, a pale yellow shirt and a gold and black tie.

But he wouldn't change from his uniform Thursday. So the trial went on.

"This is not going to turn into a daily thing," Bridges told defense attorneys. "We're not going to have a daily begging session."