View Full Version : Article: Earnest Lee Hargon Death Penalty Trial About to Begin

01-16-2005, 11:24 AM
Hargon lawyer has questions

Potential jurors' impressions about cocaine, other issues sought by defense team

YAZOO CITY Earnest Lee Hargon's attorney wants to know what potential jurors in his client's capital murder case think about crack cocaine and those who buy and sell it.

It's among 151 queries in a 39-page questionnaire Wesley Evans wants to send to the Marshall County pool from which jurors will be picked. Yazoo County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis hasn't said if she'll allow the questionnaire. Evans said the questions are general and will help him determine if potential jurors "will be open to following the law."

Of Marshall County's estimated 35,000 residents, 19,000 are registered voters and possible jurors. Lewis has ordered jurors to be chosen from Marshall County to hear the triple murder case against Hargon, then be brought to Yazoo County March 28 for the trial proceedings.
Hargon is charged in the Feb. 14 slayings of his cousin, Michael Hargon, Michael's wife, Rebecca Hargon, and the couple's 4-year-old son, James Patrick. He is being held without bond at the Madison County Jail.

Death penalty cases, especially highly publicized ones such as Hargon's, require defense attorneys to pursue extensive questioning, Evans said.

Other attorneys agree. "Everybody in a death penalty case should do it," said Jackson defense attorney Tom Royals. "It should be routine."

Attorney Jim Kitchens of Jackson said questionnaires are becoming more common in all cases, not just capital ones.

"Typically, both sides want it," he said. "They are also helpful to the judge. They shorten the jury selection process. You don't have to ask those questions again."

Yazoo County District Attorney James Powell couldn't be reached Saturday.

Jennifer McBride, Michael Hargon's sister, said if a questionnaire would speed up the trial, "I'm all for it." She and her family are anxious for the case to be tried, McBride said.

Evans wouldn't discuss specific questions listed in the questionnaire. He doesn't think his questions give insight into the defense he will present for Hargon. "These are the kind of questions to follow up on," Evans said.

McBride said she's certain Evans will do everything he can to shift blame from his client. "I can't stand it when they do that," she said.

Generally, questionnaires ask jurors who they most admire or what television shows they most like to watch, Royals said. The answers, he said, "tell you a lot." If a potential juror lists police-oriented shows as favorites, a defense attorney might not want that person on a jury, Royals said.

It will be up to Lewis to decide what questions she'll allow. But most judges won't allow attorneys to ask questions that "zero in on the case," Kitchens said. "They can be pretty specific in terms of asking what people's attitudes are about specific things."

Royals said consultants can use questionnaires to ponder what jurors they want. The answers, he said, "are very accurate. You really should take it seriously."