While a defense attorney argued Monday that graphic photos of Robert Barber’s body should be barred as evidence in the trial of the man accused of killing him, Barber’s widow covered her eyes with one hand and quietly wept.
The start of the first-degree murder trial involved mostly routine legal discussions between attorneys and Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell, but occasionally the emotion in the courtroom seemed palpable. Also crying intermittently were family members of the 20-year-old defendant, Chauncey Sterling, who could be sent to prison for life if found guilty.
Sterling’s family sat on one row in the Mecklenburg County courtroom and behind them Barber’s family, including his wife, Debbie.
Barber, 64, was a well-known executive with Carolinas Healthcare System, shot while walking home from Caribou Coffee on April 22, 2011. His assailant, police have said, was looking for someone to rob and spotted Barber alone on Mullens Ford Road, a few blocks off Fairview Road in South Charlotte.
Defense attorney Scott Gsell said photos of the crime scene are so gruesome, they would be prejudicial to Sterling if the jury is allowed to see them. Bell deferred ruling on the issue.
Because of publicity surrounding the case, Gsell also asked the judge to bar media cameras from the courtroom.
“There’s a lot of sensationalism,” said Gsell, who mentioned “hatred and vitriol” directed toward Sterling in Internet postings. “They want to know who the monster is who .... did this.”
Bell denied the motion, allowing one television camera and one still camera.
Most of the rest of the day was devoted to questioning potential jurors, but none had been chosen when court adjourned.
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