SHELBY, N.C. -- Donald Borders walked into Cleveland County Superior Court Monday morning dressed in a blue suit, shirt and tie; he smiled at his family members who were sitting in the front row nearest him.
The 53-year-old then took his seat next to his attorney, David Teddy for the start of his murder trial.
Borders is accused of raping and killing Margaret Tessneer, 79, in the fall of 2003.
Teddy filed a last minute motion to try to convince Superior Court Judge Richard Boner to allow for a change of venue.
Teddy told the court that there were several reasons not to hold the high profile murder trial in Cleveland County, and all of those reasons would make it impossible for Borders to get a fair trial.
"You add the layer of an African American man accused of raping and murdering a white-- an elderly white woman, who by all accounts was a nice lady, beloved lady, it simply sets up a dynamic where the defendant can't possibly receive a fair trial," said Teddy.
He also said that the intense media attention has tainted the jury pool, "It's so pervasive, so intense, so racially charged. so permeates the news coverage in this town, that it's impossible to get 12 people who aren't tainted."
Teddy also said stories in the media also linking his client to the mysterious deaths of two other elderly women around the same time of Tessneer's death. The Cleveland County Medical examiner did not rule the 2003 deaths of 85-year-old Lottie Mae Ledford nor 87-year-old Lillian Mullinax as a homicide.
The state countered that the only way to determine if the pool is tainted would be to ask them.
"We can presume all day long that pre-trial coverage will influence someone. Until we interview that person we have no way of knowing." said Cleveland County Prosecutor Sally Turner.
Judge Boner decided to allow for the jury selection process to proceed on Monday. If they can not find 12 jurors and two alternates out of the jury pool of 47 county residents, then the judge would consider a change of venue.
"If we go through 48 jurors without finding 12, then that's a perfect indicator," said Boner, who said he would consider changing the location of the trial to another county or even bringing in a jury from another county.