COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- A former client and friend of Senator R.C. Soles was back in a Columbus County courtroom today. Allen 'Frog' Strickland is accused of burning his own home and then trying to collect from his insurance company.
More than 50 people were called forward for jury duty Monday to see who would be selected to take part in the arson retrial. Most of the potential jury questioned by Judge Gary Trawick were familiar with Strickland's arson case. They were also aware of his friendship with Senator Soles.
In 2009 Strickland was accused of burning his own home, which Soles bought; as part of an agreement that the young man would finish school. Despite this connection Judge Trawick told the potential jurors to avoid their friendship.
"This is not about the young man's alleged interaction with Senator Soles," said Trawick. "It's about if he burned his home."
Even with those instructions three potential jurors admitted to the court that they would not be able to avoid what they heard from the media and the public pertaining to Soles and Strickland's interaction with one another.
One potential male juror spoke out in disgust saying he would not be able to be impartial to Strickland.
"There are some things so nasty, I'm going to be honest with you I don't think I can do it," the potential juror said.
This man and the two other jurors were released. In the end 12 jurors along with one alternate were selected. Outside the presence of the jury Judge Trawick also heard motions from the defense and prosecution on Monday afternoon. The main topic of discussion, a recording with Strickland found midway the first trial. This prompted the ruling of a mistrial in April. Strickland's defense attorney wanted the recording to not be entered this time around but the prosecution asked the judge that it be considered. Judge Trawick told the court the recording could both help and hurt Strickland's case. In the end the judge said if the defense does not reference it at all in their argument he will not allow the prosecution to use it either.
The trial resumes Tuesday morning.