Jury selection continues in Brown murder trial

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

COURTLAND—Finding jurors from a tight-knit community to hear a high-profile murder case has its challenges.

Lawyers interviewed nearly 50 prospective jurors on Tuesday in Southampton County Circuit Court and will continue today in hopes of finding 12 who can render a fair verdict for murder suspect Rasheed Brown, 22, of Franklin.

It was hard to find people who didn’t know Brown and the five others arrested in the October 2010 murder, victim Darrin Lee, or Sheriff’s Office investigators.

Potential juror Brian Holland told the prosecuting and defense attorneys he is friends with Brown’s mother and knows Brown’s father. Holland also knows the victim’s brother and felt it would be difficult for him to be fair.

Another potential juror went to high school with Brown — who, according to earlier testimony, shot Lee in the head — and acknowledged it would be hard to convict him. He also had no dependable transportation for getting to court.

Then there were folks like John Bradshaw, who takes care of his elderly father, an amputee. Bradshaw said it would be hard to focus on the trial knowing his father couldn’t reach him by phone or text message. No cell phones are allowed in the courthouse.

Potential juror Caroline Murphy said she knows two of the detectives and reads The Tidewater News three times a week. Murphy acknowledged she has read numerous articles about the murder in Southampton Mobile Home Park and it could affect her ability to render a fair decision.

Julee Herbert, a teacher in the Southampton County Public Schools since 1986, knows of suspect Quadrick Ashburn, 21, of Courtland.

And then there was Brandy Carr, who is engaged to Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Atkins. Carr said her relationship with Atkins wouldn’t be a problem. Jurors are not supposed to discuss the trial with anyone until it’s over.

“He never discusses anything with me so it will be easy,” she said. “He’s not supposed to and honors that.��

Opening arguments are expected today.

In February, it took a jury 2½ hours to convict Shahon Cumbo in Lee’s death. Cumbo faces 36 years in prison

Ernest Jones, 23, of Portsmouth and Bruce Boone, 19, of Suffolk pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Others facing trials are Ashburn and Darrin Robinson, 22, of Suffolk.