By Max Hrenda
MOUNTAIN CITY — With the murder trial of Marvin Potter having reached a conclusion, prosecutors sought to combine the cases against the remaining defendants.
On Tuesday morning, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood tentatively approved a “motion for joinder,” which combines the cases of Jamie Curd and Barbara and Jenelle Potter into a single trial.
Each is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of Billy Payne, 36, and Billie Jean Hayworth, 23, who were found murdered in their home at 128 James Davis Lane in Mountain City on Jan. 31, 2012.
Blackwood presided over the trial against Marvin Potter, who was convicted and sentenced for his role in the deaths of Hayworth and Payne. It was because of that experience that he ruled in favor of the combination.
“Based on what the court has already heard, the court is going to preliminarily join these cases,” Blackwood said.
In addition to merging the three trials, the hearing also attempted to settle the location of the trial. Because of its size and small population, Blackwood cited concerns in finding an impartial jury in Johnson County.
“There’s no way to try this case in this county,” Blackwood said. “A change-of-venue is going to have to be granted.”
When Blackwood asked defense attorneys if they would be comfortable relocating to Washington County — where Marvin Potter’s trial was conducted — the attorneys had some concerns.
“On behalf of my client, I’m uncomfortable with it going to Washington County,” said Cameron Hyder, who represents Jenelle Potter. “In my motion to change venue, I addressed that particular concern, because of the immense amount of notoriety that this case had ensued in Washington County.”
In response to Hyder’s concerns over the case’s publicity, Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks said that, before selecting a jury for the Marvin Potter trial, potential jurors were given a questionnaire to determine how knowledgeable they were on the case.
“There were very, very few Washington County potential jurors that had already formed an opinion in this case,” Brooks said. “Most of them checked that they really didn’t know anything about it. Now, we’ve got the added element that we’ve already had a trial that’s been publicized, but I really don’t think we’re going to have an issue.”