Jonathan Broyhill sat at the defense table in a Wake County court room Monday while potential jurors were out in the hallway, taking an afternoon break.
The defense team and prosecutor had yet to settle on the 12 jurors who would decide the fate of the 33-year-old man accused of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Joseph Arbour, the Wake County public defender had spent much of the afternoon asking potential jurors whether they could withhold judgment in a case that was not a whodunnit.
Broyhill is accused of murdering Jamie Kirk Hahn, a 29-year-old Democratic strategist whose life came to a violent end in April 2013 outside her North Raleigh home. Broyhill also is accused of attempting to murder Nation Hahn, his childhood friend and Jamie’s husband of four years.
Arbour acknowledged to men and women in the jury box, waiting to find out whether they would be seated, that Broyhill “took a knife and with that knife attacked, stabbed and cut rather brutally this young woman, Jamie Kirk Hahn.”
“You’re going to hear that her husband, Nation Hahn, who was not present when that attack started, tried to intervene. In trying to do that he was injured,” Arbour added.
Arbour went on to explain to the men and women he had been questioning that murder is defined in different ways – touching briefly on elements of premeditation, deliberation and a killing committed in conjunction with another felony.
But on a day that started with Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway asking Broyhill whether he agreed with his attorney’s plan to acknowledge some of his actions, Arbour exposed a large piece of his defense strategy.
“The trial is not always about whether something happened but is often about what happened and why,” Arbour told the jury pool.
Once a jury and alternate jurors are selected, prosecutors and the defense team estimate a trial of two to three weeks.
The trial could offer a glimpse of the wide circle of friends that Jamie and Nation Hahn had before the stabbings on April 22, 2013.
The couple married in 2009 and Broyhill, now 33, was the best man at their wedding.
Nation Hahn was in the courtroom part of Monday, as were Jamie Hahn’s father and Broyhill’s mother.
Since the attacks, friends have wondered what led to the violent afternoon that left a young husband widowed, his friend behind bars and fans of Jamie Hahn trying to figure out how to keep alive her dreams of helping poor and at-risk children.
Many of the people called to the jury box on Monday as potential jurors said they had read about or heard of the Hahns and the case.
Attorneys read a list of possible witnesses early on Monday and it included police, investigators and others who could bolster theories put forward by prosecutors.
In search warrant applications, law enforcement officers have contended that Broyhill carried out the frenzied knife attack at the Hahns’ North Raleigh home amid questions about his handling of a campaign account for former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller. Miller, a Democrat from Wake County who represented the 13th district from 2003 to 2013, has said he noticed irregularities in a campaign account in 2013 and sought answers from Jamie Hahn, whose company was doing work for him.
Investigators have cited embezzlement as a possible motive for the stabbings and contend that Jamie Hahn confronted Broyhill about the financial irregularities shortly before the attack.
Broyhill was hospitalized after the attack, suffering from self-inflicted wounds.
“There is evidence in this case – I don’t think the state will dispute – that our client attempted suicide in these matters, and that goes to state of mind with respect to theories of what caused the homicide to occur,” Arbour said in court before jury selection started.
Broyhill has been kept under close watch while incarcerated, awaiting trial.
Shortly before the evening break on Monday, Arbour elaborated on just what that meant in the Wake County jail facilities where Broyhill will be housed during trial. Jailers there have not let Broyhill have access to razors.
Barbour complained to Ridgeway that because of that, Broyhill, who was sporting a thin reddish beard, had worried that he was not putting his best face forward for a jury that would decide his fate.
“He should be allowed to shave,” Arbour said.