Judge dismisses juror who fell asleep during Chandler Kania trial

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Friends of Chandler Kania took the stand during his trial Thursday (WTVD)

The trial of Chandler Kania, the former UNC-Chapel Hill student accused of killing three people in a wrong-way drunk driving crash in 2015, took a brief pause Thursday after the judge dismissed a juror for falling asleep during testimony.

Superior Court Judge Henry Hight counted 25 minutes that the juror was asleep during a witness testimony. An alternate juror stepped in after a short recess.

Kania is facing three counts of second-degree murder and reckless driving charges in connection with the fatal July 2015 wreck.


The state questioned Kania's friend Alex Pugh, who had spent the entire day with Kania prior to the fatal crash. Pugh testified on the stand that the two smoked marijuana together in Wilmington before driving to Chapel Hill where they ended up going to bars that night.

Pugh told the court that he attempted to take Kania's keys away from him before Kania drove away.

Pugh said when they were all leaving the bar, he overheard a loud conversation between Kania and his friend, Case Aldridge. Later, Pugh saw Kania walking to get into his Jeep the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house just off UNC's campus.

Pugh explained how he and Kania's friend "Ditz," who had already tried tackling Kania to get him to stop, attempted to keep Kania from driving away.

"Like 'don't go,' or whatever. And then the next thing I know, Ditz grabs Chandler's phone and then Chandler grabs the keys, puts them in the ignition, and I reach over, try to grab the keys and then Chandler grabs my arm, starts it up, and throws it in reverse," Pugh explained.

PHOTOS: I-85 crash

That was the first time Kania left the frat house parking lot in his Jeep.

Another one of Kania's hometown friends, Joshua Hall testified he tripped and fell while running to reach Kania as he was getting into his car. Hall said Kania pulled off, but returned a few minutes later.

"He came back but he looped around and then he slowed down but then he sped away," said Hall. "I texted him, I believe I said like, 'Chandler, please come back.'"

Also testifying on the witness stand Thursday morning was the UNC student who the state says caused Kania to have a heated argument with Aldridge before the deadly crash.

That argument, the state said during opening statements, would be a big part of their case. Prosecutors said the argument shows Kania acted with malice when he got in his Jeep and drove drunk the wrong way down I-85.

Rebecca Greene, who said she hasn't spoken to Kania since the incident, said she used to date Aldridge, Kania's fraternity brother, and formed a friendship with Kania over the summer.

"Becoming friends over the summer, we confided in each other about it," she said of Kania, who she said was hoping to get together with her best friend. "We wanted to help each other be happy and get back together with the ones that we wanted to be with."

Greene testified the night of the crash, she had been drinking with Kania and later texted him excessively as she asked him to get her back together with Aldridge.

Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, her friend Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Beard, 6, of Brooklyn, New York, were traveling home when their vehicle collided with a Jeep driven by Kania, who admitted Monday to driving while impaired. They were killed in the crash. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was also seriously hurt in the crash.

Darlene McGee, Felecia Harris and Jahnice Beard

Earlier Thursday morning, the state called the Medical Examiner to the stand, as well as the Highway Patrol trooper who searched Kania's cell phone.

The defense asked before the trial began that pictures and video from that cell phone be thrown out, claiming the evidence was collected illegally.

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Related Topics:
I-85wrong waytraffic fatalitiesdrunk drivingcourt caseuncChapel Hill
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