Post by Joanna on Nov 6, 2013 23:59:07 GMT -5
Potter gets 2 consecutive life sentences in 'Facebook murders'
MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. – Marvin Potter, 61, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences on Tuesday in the shooting deaths of Billy Payne Jr. 36, and Billie Jean Hayworth, 23, in their home on Jan. 31, 2012. The shootings have been called the Facebook Murders because of the Internet hatred the Potter family is alleged to have had against the victims. The murderous spat began when Payne and his Hayworth unfriended Potter's 30-year-old daughter Jenelle Potter. According to police, Jenelle began harassing the couple in the week leading up to the shooting January 31, 2012.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood found Potter not only met the requirements of the law: that there was a preponderance of evidence that he displayed little or no regard for human life when he entered their home at 128 James Davis Lane early in the morning and killed the couple. Blackwood said Potter showed a “shocking disregard for human life” by the act that he shot Hayworth while she was holding the couple’s 6-month old baby in her arms. Blackwood, a senior judge, said he could not think of another case in his many years on the bench as cold hearted as the shooting of a mother with a baby in her arms and leaving the child to its fate.
Prior to sentencing, two members of the victims’ families took the witness stand to address Potter. Beverly Garland, Payne’s mother, said Bill was a wonderful son who was so kind to everyone that she could not imagine anyone would murder him. Janie Hayworth Henry told Potter “there was no justification for what you did,” and said her nephew will grow up knowing about his parents because the family will tell him about Billy and Billie Jean. Potter did not make a statement prior to sentencing.
Three others have yet to stand trial in the murders and after Potter was sentenced, Blackwood took up matters involving those cases.
The first question was whether to combine the case of Potter’s wife, Barbara Potter; his daughter, Janelle Potter (pictured above); and family friend Jamie Curd into one trial. Defense attorneys Randy Fallin (for Barbara Potter), Cameron Hyder (for Janelle Potter) and Casey Sears (for Curd) argued against combining the trials. Their arguments centered on the emails and other electronic messages sent between the three that assistant district attorneys Dennis Brooks and Matthew Roark plan to use as evidence of a conspiracy. In the first trial, only shredded emails pieced back together by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were used. Brooks said the state has obtained the records from the remaining defendants’ Internet accounts.
The defense attorneys told Blackwood the “onslaught of the voluminous amounts evidence” would be unduly prejudicial against their clients. Fallin also argued about the reliability of determining whether the messages were actually sent by the person the state claims to have sent the messages. Brooks said the emails show a conspiracy going in every direction and the state can prove who sent the messages. Blackwood set a deadline of January 2, 2014, for attorneys to present motions in the case. The previously scheduled trial date in December for Curd has been continued.
A preliminary May 2014 trial date was set for the three defendants yet to stand trial. Barbara and Jenelle Potter and Jamie Lynn Curd are each charged with two counts of first degree murder plus conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the 2012 killings of Billy Payne, Jr. and Billie Jean Hayworth. Their next court date is January 2, 2014, at which time it will be determined whether they will be tried together or separately. The judge indicated the trial, or trials, will be held in Washington County, but because of publicity, the jury may be pulled from a different county.
Source: Johnson City Press, October 29, 2013.