Jury selection to start in real estate agent killing trial

Judge excludes much of the information from police interrogation

By Claudia Lauer
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An attorney for a man charged in the killing of a central Arkansas real estate agent says he doesn’t expect to have trouble seating jurors despite extensive media coverage of the case.

Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of 35-year-old Arron Lewis, who pleaded not guilty to capital murder and kidnapping in the death of Beverly Carter. Attorney Bill James, who represents Lewis, said he thinks it will be possible to seat an impartial jury even with all the media attention.

“I need people who are going to be honest and judge the case based on what’s proven and make a fair decision. I think we can find that,” James said, adding that a larger jury pool in Pulaski County will make it easier to disqualify people who may know witnesses or others involved.

Carter, 49, disappeared in September 2014 after telling her husband she was going to show a house in a rural area of Scott, 15 miles east of Little Rock. Her body was found days later in a shallow grave at a concrete plant.

Police began looking at Lewis and his estranged wife Crystal Lowery as suspects after phone and email records tied a number registered to Lowery to an account used to call Carter to arrange the house showing. Detectives followed Lewis as he left his home, but he got into a car wreck before they could approach him.

Detectives took his phone as evidence and applied for a search warrant to gather evidence from his wrecked car and the home he shared with Lowery. Lewis ran from the hospital after the car wreck and was later captured by Little Rock police.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have spent the past few weeks protesting the inclusion or exclusion of evidence at Lewis’ trial.

In December, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright ruled that much of the information from interviews between Lewis and investigators would not be allowed. Lewis had invoked his right to have an attorney present while being transported by Little Rock police and no attorney was provided to him during the interrogation with the Pulaski County sheriff’s office investigators, the judge said.

Wright also said search warrants obtained by detectives were overly broad and ruled that evidence found in Lewis’ trunk and home will not be allowed. The warrants found duct tape and Carter’s hair in the trunk, and her phone and other items of hers at the home.

James has said the ruling would help him “put on the best possible defense for Mr. Lewis.”

Prosecutors will be allowed to play a recording of Carter that Lewis played during the interrogations, despite objections from the defense. In the recording, Carter can be heard telling her husband to follow the ransom instructions and that things could get bad if he were to call the police.

Prosecutors also will be able to show jurors text exchanges between Lewis and Lowery in which they discuss looking at other houses for sale to find one that does not have a security system, specifically cameras.

The judge also ruled that Lowery can testify about the alleged plan, despite the defense seeking exclusion for marital privilege.

Lowery is serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in July to first-degree murder and kidnapping in Carter’s death.