Jury selected for Hutton trial; opening statements to begin today

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Michael John Hutton
Michael John Hutton

A jury has been seated in the trial of a 20-year-old Wilmington man charged with attempted murder in the assault of a teenage girl last year.

Wednesday afternoon in New Hanover County Superior Court, 12 local residents–eight women and four men–will hear the case of Michael John Hutton, accused of beating then 17-year-old Hannah Connaway with his closed fist so severely that she suffered permanent brain damage.

Ahead of opening statements later today, the prosecution and defense will select two alternate jurors.

Jury selection for Hutton’s trial got underway Monday. Although he has pleaded not guilty, the trial began with Hutton accepting 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.

Judge John Nobles questioned Hutton’s decision–as recommended by his attorneys Miriam Thompson and James Allard–before reminding him that an admission of guilt would likely mean a conviction on those charges by the jury.

Hutton responded that he was “going to take responsibility” for his actions.

He was charged in connection with an assault on Connaway in May of 2014. She was reported in critical condition at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, with brain swelling that required surgery and sedation.

Both Hutton’s and Connaway’s families have been in the courtroom since Monday morning, listening tearfully–and sometimes stoically–to the questioning of potential jurors.

District Attorney Ben David–who is prosecuting the case for the state along with Assistant D.A. Lillian Salcines Bright–told jurors that they would be hearing some difficult testimony and would be presented with evidence of a “graphic nature” throughout the trial.

David said Tuesday the trial would continue through the end of this week and into next, but both sides plan to be as expeditious as possible.

“I know this seems laborious and slow,” he told jurors of the selection process. “But this is the most important part of the trial.”

Connaway will take the stand during the trial, David said. Among other possible witnesses listed Tuesday are Connaway’s and Hutton’s family and friends, EMS staff, doctors and investigators with the Wilmington Police Department.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.