A jury was selected this evening and opening arguments are expected to begin in Halifax Tuesday morning before Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy A. Grant of Hertford County.
Whitmore’s decision to stand trial in the case came after discussions were held throughout the morning and afternoon.
Grant sent the potential jury pool out of the courtroom this afternoon to hear from Assistant District Attorney Keith Werner and Whitmore’s attorney, Tyrell Clemons.
With Whitmore in the courtroom, his hands cuffed, and wearing a blue suit, blue shirt and tie, Grant advised him of the differences between accepting a plea to aggravated death by motor vehicle in the case or to standing trial for all the charges lodged against him.
He will stand trial for second-degree murder, aggravated felony death by motor vehicle, multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon and careless and reckless driving.
Grant told Whitmore a plea to aggravated felony death would mean a prison sentence of 8 to 10 years.
A guilty verdict on all counts against him would mean 50 to 60 years, the judge told him.
After asking the 29-year-old Whitmore his age, Grant said, “You want to talk to your lawyers some more? If you go for rejecting the plea agreement it means a maximum of 50 to 60 years in prison. With the plea agreement, the most you get is 11 years.”
After about a 15-minute session with his lawyer, Whitmore and Clemons returned to the courtroom. “After much discussion, we decided to move forward with a jury trial,” Clemons said.
Whitmore is currently serving a prison stretch which has a maximum term of two years and three months for drug charges lodged against him in the summer of 2016.
State Department of Public Safety records show he is eligible for release this coming May.
A grand jury in March of 2015 determined Whitmore caused Fishel’s death “while engaging in the offense of impaired driving. The impaired driving was the proximate cause of death.”
The indictment also notes Whitmore had a previous impaired driving conviction within seven years of the December 2014 offense, that conviction occurring in Virginia Beach in September of 2010.
A request for a search warrant filed at the time of the crash backs up statements made by Roanoke Rapids police, which say Whitmore was shot in the leg while in the parking lot of an East Tenth Street business. He was treated and released.
Investigator Frankie Griffin's search warrant affidavit says Whitmore then got into a Toyota Avalon to drive himself to the hospital and he approached the intersection of Tenth Street and Becker Drive “in a careless and reckless manner.”
His vehicle went into the path of multiple vehicles, coming to rest on its drivers side.
The document says Whitmore was carried to the hospital and at the time before Fishel's death later that evening, the case was considered an attempted murder.
Whitmore was arrested two days after the indictment.