Hutton takes ‘responsibility’ for some charges as jury selection gets underway

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Michael John Hutton
Michael John Hutton

Jury selection is underway in the case of a Wilmington man charged with the attempted murder of a teenage girl in a May 2014 assault that reportedly caused serious brain damage.

Before jury selection began Monday afternoon in New Hanover County Superior Court, 20-year-old Michael John Hutton accepted responsibility for three of the six charges he is facing: felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury to the brain, felony assault by strangulation and misdemeanor assault on a female. He has pleaded not guilty to the remaining charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and felony assaulting inflicting serious bodily injury to the victim’s genital area.

Superior Court Judge John Nobles, of Carteret County, asked Hutton if he understood that his admission of guilt–at the recommendation of his attorneys, Miriam Thompson and James Allard–meant that a jury would “likely convict” him.

“Yes,” Hutton replied. “I am going to take responsibility for what I have done.”

Family and friends of both Hutton and the victim, Hannah Connaway, who is now 19, sat on opposite ends of the courtroom Monday as District Attorney Ben David asked potential jurors if they would be able to handle the “graphic nature” of the case. David said Connaway would testify during the trial.

Hutton was charged in connection with an assault on Connaway, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident. —reported at a home on Northwood Drive in Wilmington at about 9:30 p.m., May 23, 2014. She was reported in critical condition at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where she was brought to be treated for injuries from the alleged assault.

The defendant was originally charged with assault on a female and assault inflicting serious bodily injury on the day of the incident, when he was arrested and then released from the New Hanover County Jail under a $6,000 bond.

Four days later, Hutton was taken into custody a second time after detectives with the Wilmington Police Department filed additional felony charges in the case–including attempted first-degree murder–in New Hanover County District Court. A month after his arrest, a New Hanover County grand jury indicted Hutton on all charges filed in the case. Hutton has remained at the New Hanover County Jail under a $1,010,000 secured bond since his arrest.

According to warrants, Hutton is accused of striking Connaway with a closed fist repeatedly in the head and assaulting her numerous other times by striking her in the head, which caused brain swelling that required surgery and sedation.

Warrants state the assault caused Connaway “serious internal damage to the brain.” According to a hospital spokeswoman, she has since been released from the hospital.

But according to the police department, her injuries will affect her for the rest of her life.

In an interview with a Port City Daily reporter about the case in June, Wilmington Police Department Cpl. M.G. Beguhl said Connaway has healed some, but still suffers from “a permanent brain injury.”

“She has not fully recovered, nor will she ever,” Beguhl said in the interview.

According to Assistant District Attorney Lillian Salcines Bright, the state has more than 2,000 pages of medical records documenting Connaway’s injuries. Those documents were handed over to the defense prior to a hearing on the case in June, when the trial date was set for Oct. 26.

Salcines Bright and David are prosecuting the case for the state.

Jury selection will continue at 10 a.m. Tuesday.