Armas Defense to call Saylors, Byington, Temple and Mixon
I almost did not recognize him as he walked in to Judge Vining’s Federal Court room this morning, sporting a gray suit, spectacles, and, most noticeably, sans pony tail. Mario Armas could easily have passed for a member of his own legal defense team - a distinguished, graying member.
Julie Brown Armas, tall, beautiful and bright eyed had arrived minutes before, accompanied by her parents and a female companion. She leaned forward eagerly anticipating a glimpse of her husband, whose trial for charges in drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons, and most recently, the designation that he is the head of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, overseeing at least five individuals started today.
The Voir Dire, (French derivation of “to see” as in to know the truth), has started in earnest. It is that process for jury selection, or, jury member exclusion, in which both the prosecution and the defense engage in a mini trial of the potential jurors, to determine who is least suited to serve the interests of their position. Twelve jurors and two alternates will be chosen by the end of the day, to be seated to hear the United States case against Armas.
Federal Prosecutor and Drug Prosecution Specialist, Lisa Tarvin introduced members of her team, including another attorney, Mr. Erskin, as well as Federal Agent Chuck Green, DEA Agent Tim Spears, Treasury Department Agent John Schmarkey and FBI Agent Pete Connolly.
Questions are asked about employment status, marital status, parental status and experience and or relationship to members of law enforcement. Tarvin asks potential jurors about their experiences watching crime and law enforcement shows. Overwhelmingly, almost all seem to watch the Law and Order series, (NBC), as well as the CSI (CBS), series of shows on a regular basis. Tarvin underscore her question to these men and women about whether they understand that these shows and the capabilities to present evidence are fiction, and completely different from what might be presented in a real court room.
What Lisa Tarvin does not ask, Mr. Armas’ defense attorney Mr. Ed Garland, of the Atlanta law firm Garland, Samuels and Loeb, does asks. Mr. Garland tells the group that Mr. Armas, Mario Doninelli-Armas, became a citizen about 25 years ago, and that he is the child of an Italian mother and a Guatemalan diplomat. He wants to be sure that potential jurors understand that his client still speaks with a little bit of an accent. One concern he questions the group about is whether or not this will prejudice them against his client.
Garland wants to know if any one knows the witnesses the defense will be calling, which include Rome attorney Bill Byington, senior partner in the law firm Cox, Byington, Corwin, Niedrach, Smith and Twyman, and husband of Congressman Phil Gingrey’s Rome Office Manager, Janet Byington.
He wants to know if anyone knows Bob Saylors, (Former Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority Executive Director, forced to resign after this reporter revealed serious violations of ethics and law in his administration); Ronnie Mixon and Bill Temple of Toles Temple and Wright Real Estate; Susan Baker McCoy, Charles Ledbetter, Jennifer Chambers of Exit Realty, Louis Jones, Shea Ray, or Carl Black, all of whom the defense plans to call in as witnesses.
He goes on to ask about another list of witnesses, most of whom are either already convicted, or whom the defense has painted as con-men. Jimmy Collins, Lonnie Merrin, Kevin Redstrom, Carla Jackson, Talmadge Green, Dr. Joe Walstadt and Dr. Robert Naguscewski.
After Ms. Tarvin and Mr. Gardner complete their questions for the first 14 potential jurors, Judge Robert Vining takes a break, and promises to begin the same process fo rthe next set of fourteen potential jurors. It promises to be a long and tedious process.