Trial resumes for man accused of murder, arson

Trial resumes for man accused of murder, arson

Michael Mead

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by Shane Ryan / Charlotte Observer

Shane Ryan / Charlotte Observer

Posted on June 1, 2011 at 2:19 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The trial of accused murderer and arsonist Michael Mead resumed Wednesday in Mecklenburg County with jury selection and a hearing on a defense motion to dismiss the charges.

Defense attorney Lisa Dubs raised a motion to dismiss the case Monday due to an arson report from a Gaston County K-9 unit that was never turned over to the defense.

"The state is picking and choosing what evidence to turn over," Dubs told Judge Forrest Bridges. "This is a case where we have no confidence whatsoever at all that Mr. Mead has the materials he's entitled to under the U.S. constitution."

Mead is accused of killing Lucy Johnson, his fiancée, and burning her house to cover his crime in July 2008. At the time, Johnson was pregnant with Mead's child. If convicted of first-degree murder, Mead will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or death.

The only witness to take the stand so far Wednesday is Gaston Police Officer Wayne Davis. Davis trains a dog named Titan to smell "accelerants" at the scenes of fires. Accelerants are substances that act to quickly spread a fire, such as gasoline, and are often indications of arson.

Titan detected accelerants at Johnson's house, the initial crime scene, on July 16. However, the dog did not detect any accelerants in a search of Mead's house two days later.

While the prosecution presented the initial report from the crime scene, they neglected to include the negative finding from Mead's house. Officer Davis testified that he was never asked for his notes or report.

"I asked them if they needed my notes from the report," Davis said. "They weren't taking them at the time."

Gaston County District Attorney Robert Forbes contended that the report was insignificant since gasoline and other accelerants can dissipate and evaporate over short periods, especially in the hot summer months.

Judge Bridges has not ruled on the merits of the defense's motion to dismiss.

Jury selection also continued Wednesday morning in the trial. Six potential jurors were excused for moral or religious opposition to the death penalty. Three others were excused for work conflicts.

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