Saturday, January 26, 2008
Jessie Davis Case: The Circus Is Returning Soon
The photo above depicts the clock tower on our beautiful County Courthouse. Legend has it that the angels whisper among themselves about what happens there. I wonder what they're saying about the upcoming trial and media circus.
I haven't written about the Jessie Davis murder case in a while because things have been pretty mundane and quiet -- the usual legal wranglings have been going on of course.
Both Myisha Ferrell and Bobby Cutts waived the right to a speedy trial. Myisha Ferrell's trial was set for November and a jury was empaneled from a larger pool than usual -- no big surprise -- and on the morning her trial was due to begin she accepted a plea agreement. Ms. Ferrell, 30, agreed to plead guilty to obstructing justice and complicity to gross abuse of a corpse and serve a two year sentence in prison (with the possiblity of early release) and testify against Bobby Cutts Jr. in his murder trial for the murder of Jessie Davis and their unborn daughter, Chloe. She will spend at least a year in prison. Her attorney called it a "business decision." She has a nine-year-old daughter and doesn't want to be away from her and that heartens me that she cares enough about her child to consider her well-being.
That brings me to something that's bugged me through this horrible case. How could a woman who is a mother herself participate in this? What kind of hold did Bobby Cutts have on her? If someone called me and asked me to do something like this, I'd be screaming in language not fit for polite company. Just my take.
Her attorney called the deal a very difficult decision emotionally for Ms. Ferrell and came after extensive negotiation. Jurors interviewed after they were excused expressed relief that they would not have to hear the case. I don't blame them.
Cutts' legal team has tried for a change of venue but our prosecutor, John D. Ferrero, has held his ground that Cutts can get a fair trial here and has kept a tight lid on the details of the case and maintains that Cutts can get a fair trial here. Frankly, I've never seen anything kept so quiet in this city. The rumor mill is usually going strong and I applaud our law enforcement, the Prosecutor's office, and the court system for their discretion. Judge Charles E. Brown has issued a gag order so no one involved with the case can say much about it. The trial date is set for February 4th and I expect we will be besieged by the national media again.
A huge pool of jurors was called -- 800 people -- and it's now down to 163 potential jurors. Cell phones and laptops were banned from the courthouse on the days prospective jurors were scheduled to appear. An acquaintance of mine was called and told me that they had to fill out long questionnaires about the death penalty and pre-trial publicity. She said that it seemed to her that the defense team was still trying for a change of venue. She was dismissed on Thursday to her relief as she really didn't want to serve. Selection will continue in the coming week with prosecutors and Cutts' defense team questioning the remaining candidates.
My take on changing venue is that with the huge national media coverage on Jessie Davis and her daughter is that it really wouldn't matter much where they have the trial. I'm just wondering if they've considered sequestering the jury at this point. I wouldn't want to serve on that jury nor would they have wanted me there. Had I been called, all I would have had to do was tell them I blogged about the case and they would have sent me home. On the other hand, I do believe that we have an obligation as citizens of this country to serve if chosen. I just have feelings about this case and don't think I'd be able to be a good juror.
They're predicting that the trial will last a month and I'm exhorting everyone I know to get any business they have downtown -- especially at the Courthouse -- done next week. I predict it's going to be crazy for the duration. I work downtown and, fortunately, our office is far enough away from the Courthouse that we won't be seriously affected by the media circus. Then again, I could be wrong. If anyone is interested in more detail, you can read about it here.