Trial begins for former Salisbury cop

  • Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 1:01 a.m.

WINSTON-SALEM — Six men and six women will hear a federal criminal trial against a former Salisbury Police officer after a jury was seated Monday to hear allegations of excessive force during a pair of arrests in 2009.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder said he expects to begin opening arguments Tuesday morning in the case against Kareem Cesar Puranda.

Puranda was accused of using excessive force in separate incidents involving Robin Otto Worth and Eric Williams in 2009. Worth settled with the city in a lawsuit against Puranda and the department last month. The lawsuit was in response to the 2009 incident.

Several Salisbury Police officers are expected to testify in the trial. Testimony could begin later in the day Tuesday.

Prosecutor Graham Green and Christopher Fialko, Puranda’s defense attorney, spent most of Monday sparring over prospective jurors.

But Schroeder did most of the talking as he meticulously asked jurors about their careers and run-ins with the law.

Attorneys watched intently for body language, mannerisms and scribbled furiously as jurors spoke about prior incidents involving police.

Aside from prospective jurors, Puranda’s wife was one of a handful in the courtroom audience Monday.

The prosecution is expected to lead in opening arguments about 9 a.m. Tuesday.

But attorneys could run into a complicated legal discussion shortly after Sgt. Mark Hunter, one of the prosecution’s expected witnesses, passed away last week.

Hunter worked with Puranda on several cases and Graham said Hunter authored a police report for Puranda on one of the contested arrests.

Schroeder said he would rule on the admission of Hunter’s evidence at a later time.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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