Murder trial begins Monday

Published 2:30 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

Attorneys file last-minute motions to limit testimony

Presiding Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan heard last-minute motions Friday afternoon in the case against two people charged in the 1994 murder of James “Nibby” Barton, which is expected to be argued on Monday.

McKathan said he would consider the motions over the weekend.

Eugene Walter Black and Sheila Walker were among the four people charged in December of 2013 with robbery and murder in the cold case. Sandra Ellison Lynn, who also was charged with robbery and murder, entered a plea deal in May and was sentenced to two years in prison. She is expected to testify against Black and Walker.

A fourth suspect indicted in the case, Shelia Ellison Brooks, died of natural causes within months of her arrest.

Black and Walker will be tried in the coming week.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeter, who is prosecuting the case, has filed a motion requesting that essentially no allegations of wrongdoing could be brought up about former Andalusia Police Department investigator Jason Curry to discredit his character. Curry, who assisted with the 2013 cold case investigation, was charged with possession of a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance and prostitution in 2014, and was dismissed from the force.

The state also requested that character witnesses not be allowed to take the stand to say whether or not they believed the defendants were guilty or not guilty of the crimes.

A third motion was entered by the state requesting to exclude any testimony that would infer that another person committed the crime unless the testimony meets certain standards to be admissible in court.

Jeter said she was concerned that the Black counsel, Peter Bush, would give a “hearsay” statement that another person committed the crime.

Additionally, the state asked to preclude evidence of anyone treated and hospitalized unless it was contemporaneous to the crime or near a person’s time to testify.

The defense had previously requested copies of a medical assessment of Lynn’s health, prior to her guilty plea.

“There is a report of life-long, hard drug abuse and schizophrenia,” Bush said. “She was taken to the DA’s office within weeks of her being committed. She’s the state’s star witness. That’s something the jury needs to know.”

The state also asked to amend its discovery to include Black’s previous convictions and that he had marijuana and cash sometime after Barton’s murder.

Jeter argued that Barton was known to have large sums of cash on his person.

“Nothing was taken,” Bush said. “(Barton) had $9,000 cash in his pocket.”

Another question was whether the state can use a witness that the defense claims it hasn’t had ample time to discover who he is.

The state argued the defense has had the same amount of time it has to get to know the person.

The person’s fingerprint was found on a potato chip bag, which was part of evidence found at the scene.

Burgess also requested a letter that was allegedly in Brooks’ personal belongings when she died in jail.

McKathan asked investigator Brett Holmes with the DA’s office to check with the sheriff’s office.

Neither the DA’s officer nor the sheriff’s office could confirm the letter existed.

McKathan said he would spend the weekend deciding the motions.

The defense attorneys also requested additional time at the jail over the weekend with his client outside of normal visiting hours to prepare for trial. Trey Burgess represents Williams.

Court begins at 9 a.m. Monday.