Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

April 22, 2014

Jury selection set in Batty slaying

Hearings pave way for trial to begin

CROSSVILLE — Jury selections were scheduled to begin today in the trial of John Russell Giles of Hampshire Lane, Fairfield Glade, charged in connection with the Nov. 7 death of Kimberly Ann Batty, 58, of Dovenshire Dr., also Fairfield Glade.

Giles was arrested five days after he reported to 911 dispatchers that he had discovered Batty "unresponsive and possibly dead" in the living room of her home, lying next to a couch. An autopsy later found that Batty had been struck and strangled.

Giles was interviewed by Cumberland County sheriff's investigators and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Five days later, a special grand jury was called and Giles was indicted on a first-degree murder charge.

Despite having his bond lowered, Giles has remained in jail since his Dec. 12, 2012 arrest.

Over the past two weeks, two motion hearings were held as attorneys for both sides prepared for trial.

Giles is being represented by Crossville attorneys Randal Boston and Kevin Bryant. Assistant District Attorney Philip Hatch, whose main duties are prosecuting cases in White County, is lead prosecutor and is being assisted by Assistant District Attorney Caroline Knight.

One of the biggest concerns for the court and for attorneys on both sides is whether a fair and impartial jury panel can be seated. This concern is based on the fact that a large number of potential jurors live in Fairfield Glade.

Those potential jurors were exposed to media reports as well as reports from Fairfield Glade Public Safety about the death of Batty. This will result in special care during questioning of potential jurors by the defense to make sure what they may have read or heard has not caused members of the jury pool to make a pre-determined opinion in the case.

It was predicted that jury selection may take longer than it does in most trials.

Boston and Bryant filed more than 55 motions on behalf of Giles, challenging the state as to whether all evidence to be used at trial had been provided to them for preparation of a defense.

Hatch disputed all motions relating to the issue, but testimony during the second hearing explained some of the issues involved with evidence being passed on to defense attorneys.

Concern was raised on the first day of motion hearings over the failure of two witnesses — TBI Special Agent Dan Friel and Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIO) — to respond to subpeonas.

Boston and Bryant argued that the failure to appear on the part of the ROCIO representative placed the defense at a disadvantage in preparing their defense of Giles.

Friel said attorneys knew he was unavailable because of a previously scheduled trip.

In a show cause hearing before Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns, Donna Williams represented ROCIO. She is executive director and serves on the board of the federally funded non-profit corporation.

She was served a subpeona for the first hearing from Boston on the same day that a state subpeona for the trial was received. When talking with the District Attorney's Office, ROCIO representatives were told they would not be required to appear by state prosecutors until the trial.

Company officials then mistakenly believed that this instruction from the DA's office covered both subpeonas.

ROCIO analyst Robert Rosenbatt created a series of maps expected to be used during the trial that show cell phone towers as they related to the use of cell phones during the time frame of the slaying.

Defense attorneys also expressed concern over not receiving evidence from the state until almost a year after the state had received the information from state sources.

Friel testified that the TBI, about two years ago, started an effort to move to a paperless form of sending evidence reports to prosecutors across the state. The system, however, suffered developmental issues including a glitch that does not inform prosecutors that new reports from the TBI agents or labs are entered into the system.

As as a result, the TBI has continued to make improvements on its reporting system and Friel testified that his secretary now makes personal contact with the local DA's office whenever new reports are entered.

Hatch assured the court that all evidence to be used had been shared with defense attorneys as quickly as the evidence was passed to prosecutors. He added that barring evidence would be a drastic move when no prejudice against the defendant had been proven and if issue raised in the motion was cause for concern, a "brief continuance" of the trial could be granted.

Despite a vigorous attempt to bar testimony of the mapping analyst and any evidence received after February of this year, Burns commented, "I see no prejudice ... I am disappointed it was not turned over sooner ... seems the state should be more attentive ..."

He then denied defense motions to bar any of the evidence. However, challenges of witnesses and evidence can still be made, outside the jury's presence, if motions hearings are found to be necessary.

The trial is expected to take several days.

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