09/12/06 — Attorney questions Cox jury selection

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Attorney questions Cox jury selection

By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 12, 2006 1:55 PM

The trial of a LaGrange man charged in a 2004 New Year's Day double homicide kicked off with controversy Monday when his defense attorneys claimed state prosecutors were trying to stack the deck against the defendant by selecting a predominately white jury.

Telly T. Cox's defense attorney Rosemary Godwin charged state prosecutors elected to challenge one African-American man and two African-American women for "discriminatory reasons." Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth denied the claim.

Ms. Kroboth said she challenged one female African-American juror because she had a sixth-grade education and she believed the jury charge or instructions from the judge would be too complex for her to understand. Ms. Kroboth stated she also challenged the potential juror because her daughter had been involved with drugs, which prosecutors believed could sway the juror's opinion about the case.

Ms. Kroboth argued she challenged one male African-American juror because he was convicted of giving false information to a law enforcement officer during his own criminal trial. She stated he also misrepresented his criminal history.

Ms. Kroboth also argued she challenged another female African-American juror because she was too "wishy-washy" and seemed unable to make a decision. Ms. Kroboth also stated the potential juror confessed she was too "tenderhearted," and prosecutors believed she would be unsuitable to deliberate in Cox's double murder trial.

Wayne County Superior Court Judge Russell J. Lanier Jr. ruled in the state's favor after listening to the issue raised by Cox's defense team.

"I find there was no discriminatory reasons for the challenges," Lanier said and concluded, "There is no violation of the constitutional rights of the defendant."

Ms. Godwin declined to comment on whether she agreed with the judge's decision.

Cox, who wore a white cotton shirt, tan khakis and cream-colored shoes, was present. He occasionally looked to his rear and smiled at family and friends. A family member gave him two white crosses to wear around his neck during jury selection Monday.

Family members of the victims also were present. They occasionally looked in Cox's direction as the proceedings progressed.

Cox is accused of gunning down Michael Shawn Maynard, 30, and Christie Nicole Jones, 25, during a botched armed robbery he allegedly committed with 22-year-old Christopher Lee Brown of Forest Knolls Road.

The men allegedly stole two .22-caliber rifles, ammunition and a crossbow to pull off the armed robbery.

Maynard and Miss Jones were fatally shot during the armed robbery. The shootings occurred in Maynard's mobile home in the 100 block of Garrick Lane about 3 a.m., according to reports.

Maynard's then 7-year-old daughter, who was visiting from out of state, witnessed the murders, but hid in a closet to avoid detection. Miss Jones told the little girl to dial 9-1-1 before she died. The little girl dialed the number, but hung up. Sheriff's deputies responded to the 9-1-1 hang-up call and found the two bodies.

Cox and Brown were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping and one count of attempted first-degree rape and armed robbery. A third suspect, Alonza Bedell, 22, of Hunters Creek, was charged for allegedly trying to cover up the crimes.

Brown pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder Jan. 19. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, according to earlier reports. He also was ordered to pay $10,000 restitution and to undergo psychological and psychiatric treatment, according to Wayne County court records.

Ms. Bedell also pleaded guilty Jan. 19 to four counts of accessory after the fact. Her plea agreement was granted under the condition she provide truthful testimony during Cox's trial, according to court records. Her sentence will be handed down once Cox's trial is complete, officials said.

The state's lead witness, Maynard's daughter, who is now 9 years old, is expected to testify at the trial. Jury selection is expected to resume 9 a.m. today in Courtroom 4 at the Wayne County Courthouse. Once the 12-member jury is seated, evidence in the double murder case will be heard. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Cox could receive a mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if convicted of the murders.