SHELBY - Jury selection continued at a slow pace on Tuesday in the trial of Donald Borders, charged with the 2003 rape and murder of 79-year-old Margaret Tessneer.
By late afternoon, eight jurors had been picked.
Tessneer was one of three elderly Shelby women found dead in their beds, with doors unlocked and phone lines cut or yanked out.
In December, 2009, police charged Borders, 54, of Cherryville, saying DNA evidence linked him to the scene of Tessneer’s death.
An autopsy showed Tessneer was badly bruised on her chest, abdomen, upper arms, legs and feet. Officials said the number and color of the bruises indicated a struggle, but they couldn’t determine the cause of death.
The other two deaths were listed as natural in autopsy reports.
On Tuesday, Borders’ attorney David Teddy, renewed an earlier motion asking Superior Court Judge Richard Boner for a change of venue, saying it was “hard, if not impossible” for Borders to get a fair trial in Cleveland County.
Earlier, Teddy had said one of the reasons for moving the trial was that the defendant was an African-American man accused of raping a white elderly woman.
On Tuesday, Teddy repeated his argument that intense media attention had tainted the jury pool and that stories in the media – in particular last week’s four-part series in The Shelby Star – linked Borders to the mysterious deaths of the other two women.
He cited a Star editorial “seeking justice for all three victims,” saying that opinion in the community is prejudicial against Borders.
“We’re in a no-win situation,” said Teddy, who suggested the trial should be held “as far as we can get from Cleveland County.”
Boner allowed jury selection to proceed, saying he would consider changing the location of the trial if 12 jurors and two alternates couldn’t be found.
Dressed in a dark suit with bright tie, Borders, 54, sometimes intently watched the proceedings and at other times seemed to stare into space. He yawned, straightened his tie and wrote on a yellow legal pad. At one point, he smiled while speaking with family members.
A woman who had been selected as a juror on Monday was summoned back to court on Tuesday by Assistant District Attorney Sally Kirby-Turner who had “serious questions about her veracity.”
Kirby-Turner told the judge that the woman had responded negatively when asked if she’d been convicted of anything more that a speeding ticket.
Upon further examination, Kirby-Turner said it was discovered the woman had a record of three dismissals of more serious charges and a conviction for injury to personal property.
On the witness stand the woman explained that she either forgot about the charges or misunderstood, but she didn’t mean to mislead the court.
Boner excused her from the panel.
Jury selection will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
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