Judge sequesters jury for remainder of trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Over 40 potential jurors were whittled down to 12 on Tuesday morning in the re-trial of Westley Devon Harris, the Crenshaw County man accused of the murder of six people.

Jury selection, which started last Monday, was finished by noon and Circuit Judge Edward McFerrin allowed the jurors - made up of five women and seven men - until 3 p.m. to collect clothing and toiletries for an extended stay in a nearby hotel. As suspected, the jury will be sequestered for the remainder of the trial, which may last up to three or four weeks, and contact with family and friends limited.

"It's possible I may change my mind (about sequestering)," McFerrin told the jury at that time. "But it's highly unlikely at this point."

It was unlikely. Jurors were sequestered in Troy.

McFerrin said the jury would remain together as a group and not be allowed to discuss particulars of the case with anyone. Telephone calls on a nightly basis will be allowed to family members, but the jurors will be forced to relinquish their cellular phones.

McFerrin also said weekend visits with family would be supervised.

McFerrin based his decision to sequester the jury largely because of Harris' mistrial last November, a trial over which he presided. Juror Willie Fred Johnson and Teresa Rogers were arrested amid charges of perjury and tampering, bringing a halt to the trial.

Opening arguments started on Tuesday afternoon as William Dill, Assistant Attorney General, painted a graphic picture to jurors about Aug. 26, 2002, the date on which Harris allegedly killed six members of his then-girlfriend Janice Ball's family.

Dill repeatedly referred to the 'terror' and 'horror' that awaited the Balls, walking over on one occasion during his opening statement to emphatically point at Harris.

"Terror and horror that was carried out by this man," said Dill.

Dill described Harris as a 'controlling, domineering, manipulative' individual. He called Ball's relationship with Harris as 'turbulent and rocky.'

Dill said the state would bring a tremendous amount of evidence against Harris during the trial.

Harris' attorney Steve Townes made no attempt to deny his client's involvement in the murders, but chose instead to focus on Ball's involvement.

"The state wants to make her (Ball) a victim," Townes told the jury. "The evidence makes her much more than that."

Testimony will continue throughout the week.

Harris stands accused of murdering Mila Ruth Ball, 62; her daughter, JoAnn Ball, 35; JoAnn's common-law husband, Willie Hasley, 40, who also went by the name Willie Haslip; and their sons, Jerry Ball, 19, Tony Ball, 17, and John Ball, 14.