By Max Hrenda
JONESBOROUGH – Although he said he was “sensitive” to the amount of media coverage an upcoming murder trial has received, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood ruled against a request to bring in a jury from outside the local coverage area.
On Wednesday morning, in the George Jaynes Justice Center, Blackwood denied a motion for a change of venire made by attorneys for Jamie Curd and Barbara and Jenelle Potter, who have each been charged with first-degree murder for the January 2012 deaths of Mountain City residents Billy Clay Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth.
On Oct. 29, Blackwood approved a motion for joinder, which combined all three defendants’ cases into one trial. That same day, Blackwood also sentenced Marvin Potter – Barbara Potter’s husband and Jenelle Potter’s father – to consecutive life sentences after he was convicted on two first-degree murder charges, one for Payne and the other for Hayworth.
Because of the media coverage Marvin Potter’s trial received, attorneys Randy Fallin, Cameron Hyder, and Casey Sears – who are representing Barbara Potter, Jenelle Potter, and Curd, respectively – each expressed their concerns that an impartial jury would not be found in Washington County.
“The whole foundation of a fair trial would be an impartial jury,” Fallin said. “What we would like to do – and I’m sure the court would, too – is to ensure a fair hearing for these folks from a jury panel that doesn’t come in here with a lot of preconceived notions and/or exposure to information that may or may not be accurate.”
For the complete story, look for it in Thursday’s edition of the Star.