Jury seated in Buie trial, courtroom finally opened - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Jury seated in Buie trial, courtroom finally opened

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Under a cloak of secrecy, a jury was chosen Tuesday afternoon to hear the case against former downtown manager Don Buie.

In her first high profile trial since being elected last year, Judge Denise Marshall refused to allow the public inside the courtroom while lawyers from both sides chose who they want to be on this jury.

Jury selection and other court proceedings are required by law to be open to the public and this is likely an unprecendented move in Dougherty County.

It was around 3:15 PM that attorneys beganunprecedentedd and quickly seated an all black jury. The jury is primarily women and just unprecedenteda man and women were selected as alternates. Late this afternoon they were given instructions not to watch or read media reports or talk to anyone about the case.

Late Tuesday afternoon the locked doors to Judge Denise Marshall's courtroom were finally unsealed as the 12 member jury was sent home for the day. Don Buie turned his chair around to shield himself from the cameras. Potential jurors underwent another long day of questioning that whittled the first day's numbers from 61 to 44 as they answered questions.

"Regarding potential biased or interest in terms of various issues that might be presented over the course of the trial," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.

In individual interviews three were dismissed over media coverage of Don Buie's charges.

"Not that many people indicated that either they had formed an opinion based on any media or that they had been so influenced that they couldn't listen to the evidence and the law and make a decision based on the evidence and the law," said Edwards.

Late in the morning and into the afternoon potential jurors again answered dozens of questions as a group from both Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas and Buie's attorney Johnnie Graham, before they picked the panel.

"Unless more strikes are added everybody would have nine strikes," said Edwards.

Just after three the jury of 10 women and two men were seated and the state is expected to take the next three days to roll out their case against Buie.

"We have planned for certainly the rest of the week to present the state's case," said Edwards.

District Attorney Chris Cohilas filed paperwork indicating he'll bring up Buie's previous bank fraud conviction in Maryland should he testify.

Both attorneys said opening statements could take several hours. Among the first witnesses expected to be called by the District Attorney's office are Assistant City Manager Wes Smith, Buie former girlfriend Nicole Brown, and Albany City Manager Al Lott.

Pretrial motions in the case will begin at 8:30 AM. Buie Attorney Johnnie Graham said she has several motions to file and is expected to once again bring up the change of venue issue before the trial starts. Jurors will report for duty at 9:00 AM.

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