CLINTON—The jury in a first-degree murder trial that continues in Clinton on Monday could be sequestered for up to two weeks, a prosecutor said Friday.
That means jurors will be “separate and apart from others” during that time, said Tony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District (Anderson County). Jurors will only be able to communicate with others by using the phone of a law enforcement officer and only under the supervision of an officer.
“You cannot have any contact with the outside world,” Craighead said in Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court in Clinton as prosecutors and defense attorney Mart Cizek questioned potential jurors in the courtroom and dismissed some, often four at a time.
Jurors can’t have cell phones or electronic devices, such as tablets or iPads. They can bring printed books, but not electronic ones. They will be prohibited from reading, hearing, or seeing any news about the trial for Norman Lee Follis Jr., 52, who has been charged with first-degree murder, property theft of more than $1,000, and forgery.
Follis and Tammy Sue Chapman, 47, are accused of killing Sammie J. Adams, 79, who was Follis’ uncle, sometime between December 5, 2011, and January 24, 2012. Adams’ body was found hidden underneath an apartment staircase at his home on Patt Lane in Claxton in 2012 after friends and neighbors reported that they hadn’t seen him in a while, Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark said in an August 2014 press release. Chapman has also been charged with first-degree murder in the case.
The state is seeking the death penalty against the pair. Adams’ age—he was over 70—was an aggravating factor leading to the death penalty request, Clark said.
It’s not clear if the jury selection in the Follis trial was completed on Friday after three days of jury selection. The process was continuing at about 2:30 p.m. Friday in the courtroom itself after being mostly conducted in the jury room starting on Wednesday and continuing there on Thursday and Friday morning. The trial continues Monday morning in Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court.
In the courtroom starting Friday afternoon, Craighead, Cizek, and Assistant DA Emily Abbott asked potential jurors a series of questions, including whether they presumed Follis was guilty, whether they can define what the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” means to them, and whether they have ever served on a jury. If so, the attorneys wanted to know, what kind of case was it and what was the verdict.
A first-degree murder charge alleges that a killing was pre-meditated. The state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defendant, Follis, is presumed innocent. Absolute certainty is not required for the jury to find Follis guilty, but moral certainty is, potential jurors were told. The state doesn’t have to prove its case “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” but in a way that allows jurors to rest easily with their decision, Craighead said.
A very serious crime has been alleged, Craighead said, and Follis deserves, as a U.S. citizen, an impartial jury that determines guilt or innocence on the basis of the evidence.
Cizek told potential jurors that the burden of proof rests on the state, and it will come out only through the witness stand. What lawyers say is not proof, he said.
Craighead said pre-meditation doesn’t mean that the state will have to prove that Follis plotted or planned the alleged killing, spending several hours and weighing the “pros and cons” before acting. But the state does have to show that the intent to kill was formed prior to the act, he said. Use of a deadly weapon on an unarmed victim could be an element, and so could particular cruelty and calmness after the killing, Craighead said.
Craighead and Abbott will prosecute the case. Follis is represented by Cizek and Wesley D. Stone.
Jury selection last week included interviews in the jury room with four panels of potential jurors per day, officials said. Defense attorneys and prosecutors were in the room, and so were a court reporter and Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court Judge Don Elledge, officials said.
There appeared to be close to 100 potential jurors in the courtroom early Friday afternoon, including 12 seated in the jury box at any one time and four potential alternates seated in front of them.
The death penalty hasn’t been sought in Anderson County in decades, but there could be trials in three death-penalty cases this year. Besides the Follis trial that continues in Clinton on Monday, May 9, a trial has been scheduled for Chapman in August, and a third trial has been scheduled in September for Valerie Stenson, who has been charged in the death of her toddler granddaughter, Manhattan Inman. Manhattan was 18 months old and found dead in a home on Teller Village Lane in Oak Ridge on April 17, 2011.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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