TRIAL BLOG: Harry Coleman trial - Opening statements - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

TRIAL BLOG: Harry Coleman trial - Jury selection, Opening statements

Action News 5 will be in the courtroom for the duration of the Harry Coleman trial.  Coleman, a Cordova businessman, is accused of second degree murder in the death of FedEx mechanic Robert Schwerin, Jr.

According to police, the shooting happened on February 6, 2009, in the parking lot of the Trinity Commons Shopping Center on Germantown Road in Cordova.

Action News 5 will bring you regular updates from the courtroom for the length of the trial.

6:00 PM - Smith says she never heard Schwerin, Coleman, or Katherine Coleman cuss, though she admits hearing Dutch call Katherine Coleman a bitch. Smith says Dutch looked at her and just said, "You're a bitch." She says Dutch said it fairly calmly, almost in passing, though it's hard to explain, she says.
 
In testimony from June 10th, Smith said she never saw Dutch try to get in his vehicle. Farese is questioning her about that testimony now. She stands by it and says she never saw Dutch try to get into his vehicle.
 
However, at some point, she apparently told investigators that Dutch tried to get in his vehicle once. Farese asks her which is true. She says he tried to get in his vehicle once, that she must be nervous. He directs her to her statement on February 7th, in which she did not tell police that Schwerin tried to get into his truck. Farese says she did not see everything that night. She agrees. He asks if she is just saying that he tried to get into his car because she heard someone else say that when they all traded stories. She says that's not true, that she saw him try to get into his car.
 
She says she did not see Dutch hit anyone hard enough that it would've left a bruise on his wrist.
 
Farese asks her to concede that Coleman could not have gotten a gun out of glovebox, as she'd originally told police, because the Hummer does not have a glovebox. She concedes, but says she is positive that she saw Coleman go into the front passenger side door of the Hummer, not the back passenger side door.

Farese finishes with Smith.
 
Christensen re-directs. She says she is positive she saw Coleman get a gun from the Hummer.
 
The judge allows Asia Smith to step down from the witness stand.
 
He sends the jury out of the room and tells them that they should be back in court for more testimony by 10 am Wednesday morning.
 
The jury is gone for the day.
 
The judge remains in court and is having a private bench conference with the lawyers for both sides.
 
The discussion breaks.

5:50 PM - Smith tells Farese she was 5 or 6 feet away from the shooting. He takes her back to previous testimony she made in a hearing on June 20th. At the time, she told Farese she was with Savannah behind the cars in like an open parking space. Farese picks up the graphic on the white board and asks her to point out the parking spaces she was referring to in her June 20th testimony. She points out where she was. Farese tells her that's not behind the cars.
 
Farese says she was more like 20 feet away from the shooting. Smith contends it was more like 6 feet.
 
Farese directs her to page two paragraph 6 of her original statement to police. She told them Dutch took one step back then fell after he got shot. She tells Farese that Dutch was fairly close to Coleman when he got shot. Farese approaches Smith and stands a distance from her. Was he this close, he asks her. Further, she tells him. he steps back. How about this. Maybe one more step back, she says. The distance appears to be two, maybe three large steps.
 
Smith tells Farese that Coleman backed away from Dutch after sticking the gun in his mouth. Smith tells farese that Dutch pushed Katherine Coleman "in some way." She says Dutch also pushed Colt away from him at some point. She says Dutch didn't push anyone else away.
 
She says a man dressed in all white stepped between Dutch and Coleman to try to break them up. She doesn't remember if the man was wearing a robe, just that he was wearing all white. She says she has not discussed this case with anyone in a long time, though they have all discussed the case with eahc other many, many times before.
 
Smith says she did not hear Coleman tell Schwerin, "I'm going to blow your brains out." She says she was standing right next to Savannah and Savannah was freaking out because a guy had a gun pointed at her father. She says Dutch didn't turn away and drop it. Instead, he just stood there. She admits Dutch was a big guy, maybe over six-feet. She says she doesn't know how much he weighed or what type of shoes he was wearing that night. Farese asks if she's ever seen him in cowboy boots. Smith says she wouldn't say that Dutch was a lot bigger than Coleman.
 
Farese has Coleman stand up. Farese stands next to him. He is a few inches taller than Coleman. "Would you say Dutch would be as tall as me?" he asks Smith. She tells him "Maybe a little taller."

5:37 PM - I am having computer issues and have been unable to post anything for more than a half hour. I am trouble shooting the problems. Our web content manager, Jason Plank, and our operations manager, Clint Moore, are aware of the issues and working diligently to fix things. for the time being, I will have to e-mail updates to the newsroom where they will posted to this blog.
 
Over the past half hour, a woman named Asia Smith has been on the stand. At the time of the shooting, she was dating Colt Schwerin, one of Dutch's sons. She was with the Schwerin's on February 6th 2009 at Villa Castrioti. In brief, she told the court that she saw Harry Coleman shoot Dutch Schwerin. She saw him put the gun in Schwerin's mouth. She says she never heard Schwerin threaten the Coleman's or their dog.
 
Right now Steve Farese is cross-examining Asia Smith. He takes her back to her original statement she made to police.

4:49 PM - Farese corners Johnson again. He gives her back the original statement she made to police. It does not include any mention of Coleman telling Schwerin, "If you touch my wife again, I'll blow your brains out." SHe says she told police about it but they must not have written it down.  "It's not my fault," she says. Farese asks her if she had read the statement before signing it. She says she did, but must not have read it well enough.

The jury is examining an exhibit.

Johnson says she saw Coleman point a gun at Schwerin. After the shooting, she says he panned it back and forth as if he was going to shoot anyone else who came close. It is not in the statement she made to police, but she notes, "it's in the 911 tape." Farese waves his arm around as if mimicking what he thinks she might mean by panning his arm around. She agrees with the charade. Johnson says he appeared angry not scared. Farese says Coleman had a group of strange males around him, including Dutch's two sons. Johnson says thColeman couldn't; have been scared because no one was threatening him at. She says Dutch's sons were running around frantically and two other men were trying to help Dutch.

Farese finishes with Johnson. Hagerman has no re-direct. Johnson steps down from the stand.

The court takes a short break. There will be more testimony after this short recess.

The judge warns the lawyers to call each witness by there formal name. He warns the audience not to react to anything or the he will clear the courtroom. Now... recess...officially.

e4:21 PM - Farese hands Katie Johnson a white board on which there is a diagram of the parking lot. He asks her to initial the spot where she was standing and the spot where the shooting happened. 

Farese hands Johnson a picture of a storefront. SHe says it accurately depicts the storefront on the night of the shooting. Farese passes her another picture. I can't see it but it looks like a crime scene photo. Johnson says it shows the Hummer and the Denali on scene that night. There is crime scene tape. She tells Farese that both vehicles are parked within their proper lanes. Both are within the parking space lines.

A deputy takes both photos over to the jury so that they can review them

4:11 PM - Katie Johnson admits to Farese that Dutch was pacing back and forth, angry and cursing. She admits that she was somewhat shocked by his behavior.

She says she told Savannah to pull out and leave but they couldn't because Katherine was still behind the Denali. Farese asks her what about Dutch, wasn't he pacing and cursing on the sidewalk. They couldn't have left without him, could they. She says they still could've pulled out if Katherine wasn't behind the Denali.

She says replays the nights events for Farese. He digs at each word and questions everybody syllable. Behind me in the courtroom, an observer whispers to himself, "He's twisting her around."

That's the general feeling in the courtroom, but then again, I am on the same side of the room as Dutch's family. I would assume they he other side of the courtroom has a very different view of Farese's line of questioning. Both sides would agree, the truth is important to find, though I'd guess both sides believe in a different truth.

Johnson says Coleman held Dutch's head with his left hand and held the gun with his right hand and "forced the gun into his mouth." She says Dutch quit cussing as soon as he saw the gun. After the gun was put in Dutch's mouth, Coleman backed away, back toward his wife.

After Dutch was shot Katherine fell to the ground. Johnson says she saw it all and that her view was not obstructed but she does not remember exactly where she was standing when the shot was fired.

4:00 PM - The prosecution plays Katie Johnson's 911 tape. She tells the dispatcher she's in front of Panera Bread and someone just got shot. The man with the gun was still on scene and he still had the gun. She tells the dispatcher the guy with the gun threatened other people and was acting like nothing had happened. On the tape, she sounds like she is cracking. The dispatcher asks her where is the gun right now. She says no. She says the guy who did the shooting isn't going anywhere because his wife is on the ground.

"We need an ambulance now," she tells the dispatcher.

She tells the dispatcher she sees five cop cars coming.

The tape is finished.

Katie Johnson says she remembers Katherine Coleman in Dutch's face hollering and screaming and cussing at him the whole time before the shooting. Katie says she wanted to leave but Katherine stood behind the Denali and wouldn't move so that no one could leave.

Later she saw the gun in Coleman's back right pocket.

Christensen finishes with the witnesses and passe Katie Johnson to Defense attorney Steve Farese.

Johnson says she never met Mr. Coleman before this. Farese makes it point to reference him as Mr. Coleman, not Harry, not Ray, but Mr. Coleman. Johnson says they were at Dutch's house in Byhalia, Mississippi before going to the restaurant. She says she does not remember if Dutch had anything to drink while still in Byhalia. Farese hands her a statement she made to police immediately after the shooting. She says she saw the statement earlier today prior to being called to the witness stand.

In the statement, she told police she saw Coleman use the cell phone though she says she didn't specify when he used the phone. She testified earlier  that she did not see Coleman call police. Farese reads from her statement, in which she told police that Coleman got the phone out to call police because the victim as cussing out Coleman's wife. 

Johnson says she made the statement to police mere hours after the shooting. Before she signed the statement, she had to read over the statement for police. She says she read her previous statement to police at 8:30 this morning.

Farese asks her about the number of drinks Dutch had. She says she doesn't know. Johnson says it was 15-year-old Savannah's idea to drive home that night. Johnson says everybody's been talking about the case. Farese asks if she knows the terms co-mingle and embellishment. She says she knows both and has done neither. She says she is not just telling the court things other people who were there had told her and that she isn't;; making things bigger than they actually are.

She says she doesn't; know how much he had to drink. Her idea of "he had a couple" is different from Farese's. Dutch might've had one or he might've had four. She doesn't know. She knows he had one. And she believes it was a beer. Savannah was not out there keying Mr. Coleman's car. Johnson says she didn't; see anybody vandalize Coleman's car. All she saw was Dutch gently push Katherine.

Farese returns to Johnson's statement to police. He says she told officer  Gwynn that Mr. Schwerin became enraged that night.

3:41 PM - State calls Katie Johnson. She is Dallas Schwerin's ex-girlfriend. Dallas Schwerin is Dutch's son. At the time Katie and Dallas were still dating. She went to Villa Castrioti with the Schwerins that night to celebrate Dallas' grandfather's birthday. Johnson lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Johnson's last contact with the Schwerin family was last June.

Hagerman passes Johnson a photograph of Dutch Schwerin, the way she remember him when he was alive. Hagerman submits the picture into evidence and publishes it the jury.

Coleman sits in place behind the defense table. A pair of reading glasses rests below the bridge of his nose. his fingers nervously fiddle with a pen in his hands.

KAtie Johnson says Dutch "had a couple" while at Villa though she did not keep count. After dinner, she left with Savannah and Dutch. Savannah was going to drive. Dutch was going to sit in the front seat and Katie was going to sit in the backseat of the Yukon Denali. Johnson says Savannah was going to drive because she had her learners' permit and wanted to learn to drive.

Johnson says Dutch got angry because the Hummer was parked to close. She says she didn't; see Dutch do anything to the Hummer, but was aware that he was angry. A woman drives up in a Land Rover, gets out and stands behind the Yukon so that the could move. Johnson says the woman never approached the front of the Denali. Johnson says Dutch and the woman were cursing at each other. The woman's husband comes out and the woman walked up between the Hummer and the Denali and started cussing and screaming at each other. Johnson says the woman got right up in front of Dutch and hollered a bunch of cuss words at Dutch. Dutch tried to get her away from him and tried to push her back. Johnson says it wasn't a shove just a gentle push. Prosecutor Eric Christensen has Johnson show how it all happened. Johnson says the woman stayed in Dutch's face and wouldn't move.

Harry was there for the push. Harry said, "you touch my wife again I'll blow your brains out." Johnson says Dutch didn't; threaten anybody. He didn't threaten to kill anyone or anybody's dog. She says Dutch just stood there when Coleman threatened to kill him. Johnson says Coleman when and got the gun came back put the gun in Dutch's mouth and his other hand on the back of Dutch's head then walked away and shot him.

Johnson says after Coleman threatened to blow Dutch's brains out, Katherine Coleman got right back in Dutch's face.

Johnson says she never saw Coleman with a phone. When he got out of the Hummer, she saw him come out with a gun. She says Coleman was in the Hummer for a couple of seconds, rummaging through stuff. It looked like he had to get it out of the center console.

Another guy came up and tried to stop everything but backed off because he didn't; want to get shot himself. SHe says she never heard Dutch say "I'm going to kill you" She says she never saw Dutch swing at anybody and never saw him knock Katherine Coleman down. Johnson says she called 911. She listened to a recording of it this morning.

3:24 PM - Bench conference over.

Ballin says the first cop got there very quickly, within a minute-and-a-half and Coleman talked to the cop briefly.

Hagerman request to approach again. The judge tells the jury to forget about statements Ballin made about what Coleman told the first cop.

It's not about parking spot or vandalism. Ballin says the proof will show Coleman acted in self-defense. He finishes his opening statement.

3:20 PM - Leslie Ballin steps up to offer his opening statement. he says this case is not about parking spaces or vandalism. He says Schwerin was cursing at and threatening Harry Coleman and his wife.

Ballin says Coleman told his wife happy birthday that day. Coleman's wife was going to have dinner with her mother. Coleman was planning to got to Arkansas for business that day and stay overnight, but his plans changed. He left his office that afternoon. He made a stop before his final destination in Augusta, Arkansas. He stopped at a rehab facility in West Memphis to visit a friend who had been in a car accident a few weeks earlier. The friend asked if Coleman knew a lawyer who could help him with the auto accident. Coleman called a lawyer friend named Scott May and stayed longer than he wanted to. He decided to kill time at the Peabody Hotel then planned to meet his wife and mother-in-law for dinner.

After two glasses of wine and killing some time, he called his wife and told her to meet him at Villa Castrioti. Coleman goes tot he restaurant, drives into the parking lot and parks. He parks. Ballin promises to show pictures of how he parked in this parking lot. Shwerin's Denali is to the right. Coleman's Hummer is to the left. Ballin says both cars are within their lines. Coleman goes inside the restaurant to wait on his wife and mother-in-law. he had another glass of wine.

His mother-in-law comes into the restaurant to find Coleman. She had been a passenger in a vehicle. Ballin starts the multi-media presentation. Coleman's wife points out her husband's new Hummer to her mother. She sees someone vandalizing the Hummer. She approaches the stranger and asks him what he's doing. Ballin says he starts cussing and yelling and asking if it's her vehicle. She says no but it's her husband's vehicle. "Tell that MF to come out here." Ballin says Schwerin is a big guy. He says Katherine COleman realized that Schwering is out of control. She backs up because she has no idea why he;s so angry, why he's cursing. The multi-media presentation shows Katherine backing up into the parking lot to a position where she could see Schwerin's tag number in case he pulled off. Ballin says Schwerin threatened and cursed her, called her "the B-word."

Katherine sends her mom inside to go get Ray, as Harry Coleman is known. Coleman goes outside with his mother-in-law. He leaves his day planner inside Villa. Once outside he sees the crowd gathered around the disturbance. Katherine tells him that this guy is threatening me and he vandalized your car. Coleman goes up to Schwerin. Coleman is 5'10". Schwerin is 6'1" and 261 pounds. Ballin says Schwerin threatened to kill Coleman, his wife, and his dog. Ballin says Schwerin was rocking back and forth. Coleman was scared. Why is this guy threatening us when all we want to be is left alone.

Ballin says Coleman needed help. He was afraid. And he needed help. He opened the passenger door on the rear of his vehicle so he could shield himself from Schwerin and his bizarre behavior. Ballin says Coleman got his phone and called 911. The MM presentation shows these depictions. Ballin says the call to 911 just kept ringing. 911 did not answer. Coleman realized they weren't answering. Ballin says Coleman just reacted. He took out the gun and showed it to Schwerin. Ballin says Schwerin just kept threatening.

Coleman decided to go closer to show him the gun closer to make sure he saw it. If he was intent on shooting Schwerin, it would've happened at that point, Ballin says. Instead, he told Schwerin to just leave us alone. The MM presentation shows Coleman pointing the gun into Schwerin's mouth then he backs away so as to create distance for his own safety and back to where he thought Katherine was behind him.

There was chaos, chaos, chaos.

Others called 911 and did get through. Coleman tried to distance himself from Schwerin. He moved back west back toward Germantown Parkway, back toward Panera Bread.

Two things happened at that point that put us here in this courtroom today. Ballin says Schwerin was large, angry, drunk man threatening to kill Coleman, his wife, and his dog. Ballin says Schwerin was advancing. Someone, perhaps one of Schwerin's sons, tried to stop Schwerin but got tossed aside. After this, after this, Ballin says, Katherine gets in front of Schwerin. The MM presentation shows Schwerin toss her down to the ground like a ragdoll then continue to charge on Coleman. The charge continues and Schwerin is going to do what he's been threatening to do for several minutes.

Coleman says Schwerin told him to "stop, stop!" When Schwerin didn't stop, Coleman shoots. he did it to save his life.

What does a man do who's guilty? He's flees. Not Mr. Coleman. He first checks his wife who then faints. A guilty man fleeth, but not Mr. Coleman. He puts the gun in his back pocket and waits for police. he showed the gun to police in appropriate fashion.

The prosecution requests a bench conference.

2:57 PM - Steve Farese: "Mr. Coleman pleads NOT guilty to all counts."

Paul Hagerman gets up for opening statements. He says Harry COleman was mad so he killed a man.  He killed a man after dragging the gun across his mouth. He killed a man even though there were no threats. He killed a man who was unarmed.

This case is about a parking space, about adults acting like juveniles, about stupid vandalism. This case is about fear.

Robert Dutch Schwerin at a family birthday dinner at Villa Castioti with his three kids and his two sons girlfriends.

Hagerman: They say don't speak ill of the dead. Dutch Schwerin left the restaurant at 9 pm and walked to his Yukon with his daughter and one of his son's girlfriends. Hagerman say Dutch had drank to much to drive, but that his daughter Savannah was going to drive them home even though she only had her learners' permit. He got to his car. there was a very unique Hummer parked next to him. the Hummer is parked too close. Savannah got into the car on eh passenger side to slide over into the drivers seat. Dutch did not get into the car. he walked over to the Hummer, which has plastic caps over the lights. He unscrews the lights and puts them on the hood. He had no reason to do it. That's just stupid.

Harry Coleman's wife and her mother drive up. Coleman is also eating dinner at VIlla Castrioti. Coleman's wife sees Dutch unscrewing the lights and putting them on the hood. You're vandalizing my husband's car. Dutch did not apologize, but rather engages her in an argument. they called each other names, yelling at each, two adults acting stupid. She sends her mom inside to get Coleman. Coleman comes outside. He's in the right to come outside to the extent anybody is over a parking space.

Coleman has words with Schwerin. Both called each other names. No on hit anybody. At some point, seconds, maybe minutes, things calmed down. the name-calling stops. They speak to each other closely and calmly. Harry Coleman's wife runs back into Dutch;s face and tells him he's not such a big man now that her husband is out here. The name-calling picks back up.

Coleman returns to the passenger side of the car and opens the door and bangs the door into Dutch;s car. Dutch says, "See what you did? You proved my point. You're too close. Who's going to pay for the damage to my car?" Hagerman call the reaction stupid. HAgerman say the reaction pushed a button in Coleman. He emerged from Hummer with a gun, stuck it in Dutch's face, dragged it down to his mouth to threaten Schwerin.

A guy with a long rap sheet was at the Panera Bread at the time. He sees the argument and gets in between Coleman and Schwerin. He asks Coleman to put the gun away. Hagerman says he looked into COleman's face and was terrified by what he saw. the guy steps out the way and Coleman fires one shot. The bullet hits Schwerin. He dies having spent the final few moments of his life in a stupid argument. Hagerman says he died because Coleman was mad.

Hagerman says the jury will hear from Schwerin's kids, from witnesses who were strangers to all. He asks the jury to separate what's real from what's fancy based on the testimony of those witnesses.

Did Harry Coleman kill an unarmed man after sticking the gun in his face and dragging it to his mouth because he was afraid or because he wanted to? Because he was mad?

HAgerman finishes his opening statement.

2:42 PM - Prosecutor Eric Christensen reads the indictment against Harry Coleman. It's a bland document that offers no further information and basically states that the grand jury did find that there was enough evidence to believe that Harry Coleman unlawfully killed Robert "Dutch" Schwerin on February 6th 2009. The indictment also includes lesser included offenses.

2:40 PM - The jury is not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, including amongst themselves, until it is time to deliberate. The only place they are to get information on this case is in the courtroom, during trial, in the presence of the judge and lawyers. They are not allowed to do any independent research on the case or consume any news accounts about the case. They must decide based solely on the evidence. The verdict must be unanimous. The law presumes that Coleman is innocent and the jury must consider Coleman not guilty unless the state can prove otherwise. Coleman is not required to prove his innocence.

Fowlkes tells the jury that they are to consider witness testimony carefully. They are allowed to believe all, part, or none of the testimony from each witness. Sometimes testimony from different witnesses contradict that of others. It's up to the jury to decide which bit of testimony is right.

Circumstantial evidence -- proof of facts that you may infer or conclude exist.

Direct evidence -- a direct statement of fact, like an eyewitness account.

The judge explains second degree murder. The state must prove that the defendant unlawfully killed victim and acted knowingly.

He explains the legal definitions and requirements of the lesser included offenses in this case: aggravated assault, possession of firearm in commission of a dangerous felony, and assault.

2:27 PM - The judge calls for the jury. The jury shuffles back into the courtroom. The judge shares a greeting.

He swears in the 12 members of the jury with the jury's oath.

Separately, he swears in the 2 alternates with the same jury's oath.

Judge Fowlkes gives the jury a brief preview over the types of things that will happen over the following days. He describes a few processes of the legal system. Fowlkes offers the jury some preliminary instructions.

He plans to read the indictment against Harry Coleman. Then, the jury will hear opening statements. Then the state will call witnesses to put on proof, after which the defense will get the opportunity to call witnesses and put on proof. Then the state will get the chance to offer rebuttal proof. After all the proof, there will be closing arguments, in which both sides get the chance to give their respective pieces.

Fowlkes reads out loud a set of preliminary jury instructions. He's legally required to tell them that they must consider all the evidence and all the testimony to make a fair and unbiased opinion. The jury is legally required to oblige.

Lawyers questions are not evidence. Only witness answers are considered evidence.

2:20 PM - The lawyers are reviewing the multimedia presentation that the defense plans to show to the jury during its opening statement. All the lawyers are huddled around a laptop computer watching a short video simulation of the defense's theory on the case.

The video does not last long.

They're already done reviewing the video.

Court is back in session.

2:15 PM - Court is back in session.

The proceedings begin again with... a bench conference. The jury is not in the room, but the lawyers are at the bench to discuss a private matter with the judge.

Court is back in recess.

2:08 PM - As you might've expected, this courtroom is packed very tight with people. The family of Dutch Schwerin overflows from the right side of the room, behind the prosecution. The left side of the room looks very similar only it's full of the family of Harry Coleman.

If the courtroom deputies allowed such a thing, the courtroom would qualify as standing room only. As it stands, everyone must be seated.

Court remains in recess, though the feeling is that it will start back up any minute now.

1:58 PM - I am back in the courtroom. Though court remains in recess, the defense team is here, too. Prosecutor Paul Hagerman just walked into the courtroom. A crew is setting up a multi-media presentation at the front of the room.

Also, we expect to hear a tape recording of the 911 call.

Opening statements should prove interesting... and should start soon.

12:26 PM - The judge breaks for lunch until 2 pm. He wants to give the now-seated jury plenty of time to make arrangements, inform family, and get clothes. They will be sequestered for the remainder of the trial.

Court is in recess until 2 pm.

12:20 PM - Hagerman hands his slip of paper to the deputy. Ballin, Farese, and Coleman converse again then finally hand over their slip of paper.

The deputy hands them off to the judge who consider the slips of paper then announces that the 12 who are sitting in the box right now will be the jury.

He address the other three people, including Michael Jackson, who are sitting in front, just outside of the jury box. He apparently hopes to pick the two alternates from these three people. Whoever gets picked will have to be here throughout the trial and be here to step in as a real juror in case something happens to one of the 12.

Neither side has any questions for the three potential jurors.

The judge, seemingly at random, assigns one woman to be an alternate.

He allows both sides to challenge the decision before he finishes matters. Farese, Ballin, and Coleman whisper to each other again then hand a slip of paper to the deputy who in turn hands it to the judge.

The judge assigns another woman to the second alternate chair and offers both sides a challenge. She is dismissed and sent home.

The judge assigns Michael Jackson to the second alternate chair. Neither side strikes him. Michael Jackson will be the second alternate.

The judge tells the remainder of the jury panel that they "have dodge the proverbial bullet." He dismisses them and explains that their jury duty has been satisfied for ten years.

"You're free to go," he tells them. Grateful, they shuffle out.

Everyone else remains in court.

12:10 PM - Hagerman continues questioning this potential juror at the judge's bench. Business is private, out of earshot.

The judge sends the man back to the jury box. The lawyers remain at the stand to discuss matters with the judge.

The judge dismisses the potential juror, a Mr. Willy. He leaves. Hagerman moves on to Michael Jackson. He says he's been following the news, but has not formed an opinion and can formulate his opinion based only on the facts.

Hagerman is done and turns over the floor to Ballin. Ballin asks the new potential jurors if any of them own a handgun carry permit. He also asks them about their understanding of self-defense and if they could follow the law as it results to self-defense.

He probes one woman about her opinion on guns. She does not like them and does not necessarily think the constitutional right to own guns is a good thing. Ballin wants to see if this woman would consider all the facts about the situation surrounding the events that took place in the parking lot between Coleman and Schwerin.

Ballin questions another man on his thoughts about owning a gun. The man tries to verbally work his way through his belief. He finally arrives at a conclusion, "It's complicated."

Ballin is finished and turns it over to the judge, who asks the lawyers to exercise their challenges.

12:00 NOON - One potential juror tells Hagerman that he paid attention to pre-trial news coverage. Hagerman asks how that might affect his judgement.

"Well, my opinion of the case is..." he starts, but gets interrupted by Leslie Ballin cutting him off and requesting a bench conference. The potential juror also approaches the stand and explains.

The judge dismisses the man, a Mr. Anderson.

Hagerman questions another potential juror if she can ignore the pre-trial news coverage and wait to hear more from witnesses before making a decision. Another potential juror says he followed the news coverage and has a lot of friends who worked at FedEx. He says he talked to those friends about Dutch Schwerin. Hagerman probes further to find out if he has formed an opinion about the case based on those conversations. this juror also has a first cousin who was murdered about 20 years ago. He tells Hagerman that none of these things would tilt his decision-making process one way or another. he says he could put all of them out of his mind and decide this case on his own merits. He's been called for criminal jury duty before, too, on another murder case, but was not seated on the actual jury.

Hagerman asks to approach the bench with the witness. Bench conference.

11:50 AM - Another juror is excused, a muscular young man who exits the room.

The courtroom deputies call seven more names to join the rest in the jury box. One of the names he calls: Michale Jackson. Jackson steps forward and takes his spot in the jury box. The judge asks the new potential jurors personal questions about family and job status.

One potential juror works for the city as administrative assistant in the general services division. The judge asks her how the new administration is treating her then he laughs. She laughs too and tells him that everything's fine. Another potential juror also works for the city. None of the potential jurors know each other.

The judge addresses Michael Jackson. He tells the judge he is a barber, but has been out of work for about a year. The judge turns over the questioning to the lawyers. Hagerman steps up and begins questioning the new potential jurors the same questions he asked the others.

Hagerman goes through the process. He asks each if they paid attention to any pre-trial publicity and asked if it made them feel a certain way about this case. Hagerman addresses one particular juror, a woman named Miss Lee. She appears to have trouble understanding the English language. Hagerman turns over questioning to the judge.

She's been living in Memphis 22 years and tells the judge she still has some trouble understanding English sometimes. The judge doesn't want to take any chances. He dismisses her.

Hagerman puts the other potential jurors through the paces.

11:37 AM - Two jurors are dismissed, both women. Both sides exercise more challenges, which they write on a small piece of paper and then pass to the judge.

This time, the judge dismisses a middle-aged man. Each dismissal results in a re-shuffling of the potential jurors into different seats in the jury box.

Ballin and Farese slide back from the defense table to confer with Coleman. The three men literally put their heads together, bowing into the center of the human triangle with their heads less than four inches apart. It appears they don't wan to make any mistakes picking a jury.

 

11:32 AM - One potential juror works at FedEx but did not know Schwerin and says there was no discussion at work about this case. Others know people or have family who work at FedEx. They says there was no open discussion at work or at home about this case.

One woman has a father who knew Schwerin. She says all her dad said is that he knew Schwerin, but did not relay any information about Schwerin's reputation. Ballin ants to know if they're "comfortable being a fair and impartial juror?"

All seem okay with it.

Ballin is done questioning this group.

He returns to the defense table. On the way, he stops, puts a hand on Coleman's shoulder, whispers something, then moves on about his business.

Both sides are now "issuing challenges," privately striking potential jurors from the list.

11:30 AM - Back in the public domain. Ballin looks for any family or friends of law enforcement and anyone associated with the prosecutors office.

He asks if anyone would let feelings cloud their judgement. He says they can't do that at trial.

"I'm just curious how old the children are?" one potential juror asks. Ballin tells her one is a teenager, one is 20-something. The potential juror considers the information.

Another potential juror explains that she knows one of the witnesses, a woman named Asia Smith. Ballin probes to find out if she could weigh Asia Smith's testimony fairly despite the acquaintance.

Ballin asks if anyone is familiar with a school in town called St. Agnes. Some of the jurors are. He asks if anyone knows Savannah Schwerin, a former student. He asks if anyone has children of high school age.

He asks them if they could refrain from judging Coleman if he chooses not to take the stand. he asks if they could judge his testimony with the same credibility as everyone else should he decide to take the stand.

He tells them that a jury is going to have to come to a unanimous decision and no one individual can change their opinion just to reach a verdict.

Ballin brings up the timeline. We're going to be here as long as it takes. he tells the potential jurors that it's "like Dave Brown. he can tell us how much rain we're going to get, but we never really know until it actually happens." 

11:20 AM - Ballin asks all of the potential jurors what they would do if they felt that their significant other was in danger. "Would you come to their defense?" he asks them. All answer affirmatively.

He asks them if any of them have a handgun carry permit.

He explains to the potential jurors that the indictment contains lesser included offenses below the second-degree murder indictment. He tells them that self-defense applies to each count of the indictment. He tells them that it is the defense's position is that Coleman acted in self-defense. He says it's not a question of whodunit but rather the circumstances surrounding the shooting. He asks if they can understand these concepts. They answer affirmatively.

He asks about their understanding of "beyond a reasonable doubt." The State of Tennessee has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt before they can take away the liberty of one of our citizens.

He tells them that he's going to ask the jury to look at this through the eyes of Mr. Coleman, to put themselves in his position as it occurred on February 6th, 2009 at 9 o'clock at night.

Ballin asks if any of these potential jurors have been a victim of crime. He wants to know the circumstances but she is not comfortable talking about it in front of the entire court. She asks to approach the bench to explain.

Bench conference.

11:10 AM - The judge dismisses the silver-haired potential juror "in light of her physical condition." Hagerman asks another potential juror if she followed any of the pre-trial publicity. She tells him that one of her good friends witnessed the incident. Her friend is a police officer. Hagerman asks if she could judge his potential official testimony on the stand without bias.

The judge steps in and asks her similar questions. She is hesitant with her answers. They want to know if she could judge his testimony on the same level with every other witness who testifies. She hesitates and ultimately tells the court that she could not judge the witness independently. She'd give his testimony more weight. As a result, the judge dismisses her.

Hagerman addresses another witness. She tells him she did not follow pre-trial publicity on this case, "not at all," she says. He moves on to another witness who does not watch the news or read the newspapers.

Another witness. Same questions. he remembers when this shooting happened, but that's about it.

"Ma'am, how about you? Pre-trial publicity," Hagerman asks another potential juror. She tells him that she knows Schwerin's family. She is getting teary-eyed just answering the first questions from Hagerman. The judge dismisses her. 

Another witness. Same questions. Hagerman has talked to all of them and turns the floor over to defense attorney Leslie Ballin. He addresses them all by title and last name. He asks one potential juror if he knows a lawyer who shares the same last name as the potential juror. Apparently, this guy knows a thing or two about Lexus Nexus, a legal database used for research. This potential juror is not involved in the legal department of Lexus Nexus.

11:00 AM - The judge brings in the potential jurors. He explains that court is an hour behind schedule because of the absence of one of the potential jurors. The back of the courtroom is full of potential jurors summoned here for jury duty. There are 16 potential jurors in the jury box answering questions from prosecutor Paul Hagerman. He addresses each one individually.

Short bench conference called by the judge.

The juror who was absent has just arrived. She's late, but the judge determines that they have not gone proceeded far enough to let her off the hook. She is reseated in the jury box.

Hagerman asks her if she'd have problems getting here on time. He asks her about pre-trial publicity and if it would cloud her ability to judge this case with and open mind and without bias. She answers affirmatively

Another bench conference requested by a potential juror, a middle-aged woman with silver hair. She is explaining something to the judge, but these bench conferences are private, out of earshot of everyone else besides herself, the judge, the lawyers, and the court reporter.

10:50 AM - Court is back in session. One potential juror who was supposed to be here at 10 am is a total no show. The jury coordinator can't get in touch with her, her phone numbers are not valid. The court plans to proceed without her. Defense attorney Leslie Ballin objects on the record and requests to approach the bench for a private conference.

10:47 AM - From past experiences blogging trials, I know at some point I'll be writing as fast as past as possible in an attempt to keep up with everything that's going on in court. Let me apologize in advance for the inevitable typos and sometimes awkward sentence structure. Also, if you see this: "t eh" translate it as "the." For some weird reason, that word gives my fingers trouble.

10:43 AM - Court is still in recess... and using the down time to have a maintenance man change a burnt out lightbulb in the back of the courtroom.

10:30 AM - Good Morning! Nick Kenney, signing on. I am now in the courtroom in criminal court division 6. Judge Fowlkes' court is in recess, but should get back in session shortly. Harry Coleman is in the room, sitting behind and often whispering with his defense team of Leslie Ballin and Steve Farese. Prosecutors Paul Hagerman and Eric Christensen are also in the courtroom. When court resumes, both sides will try to hammer out the remainder of the jury selection process. The court will seat 12 jurors and two alternates.

9:45 AM - Criminal Court Judge John Fowlkes is completing the rest of his docket right now. Tentatively, jury selection is scheduled to kick up again at around 10 am.

8:45 AM - Nick Kenney will be covering events in the courtroom today.

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