Questionnaire for perspective jurors
Sevierville, TN — Lawyers in the Shane Bacon murder case discussed motions in the case of the State of Tennessee vs- Christopher Willingham Friday, February 18, at the Sevier County Circuit Court.
Willingham is charged with first degree murder of Shane Bacon, 29, who was found dead June 24, 2003 in the office of Monster Audio. Bacon and Willingham were co-owners of Monster Audio and Accessories, located at 1352 Dolly Parton Parkway in the Splendor Oaks Plaza strip mall.
Willingham was dressed in a suit as he entered the courtroom. The family of Shane Bacon sat a few rows back to watch the proceedings.
Willingham’s attorney, James A. H. Bell, asked that certain members of the Bacon family leave the courtroom because they may be called as witnesses during the trial. Sevier County Circuit Court Judge Rex Ogle said the family had a right to be in the courtroom during the hearing and that they did not have to leave.
Willingham’s bond was set at $150,000 last October, of which $75,000 was a commercial bond, along with a property bond of $75,000.
During the hearing, Bell told Ogle that the $75,000 property bond, which had been secured through Willingham’s caretaker, Ernest Joyner, was no longer in place. Ogle asked how the bond was being secured.
When Bell could not tell Ogle how the $75,000 bond was secured, Ogle ordered that Willingham be taken back into custody until the bond was secured. A short time later last Friday, Willingham was released after the bonding company, which had secured the first $75,000, agreed to secure the entire $150,000 bond.
As part of Willingham’s bond agreement approved last October, stipulations were made that Willingham contact Joyner on a daily basis. During the motion hearing, Joyner testified that during a three day period since Willingham’s release, Joyner did not have any contact with Willingham. Ogle made it very clear to Willingham that he was to abide by the agreement and then asked Willingham if he understood what was expected of him. Willingham confirmed to Ogle that he did.
During the motions hearing, Bell told Ogle that he had a questionnaire for perspective jurors to complete. The questionnaire stated that it would, “Aid the court and the parties during the jury selection process” and asked 87 different questions including; “Would you characterize yourself as a Leader or Follower,” to “Have you ever watched Court TV? And if yes, describe what you have watched.” Bell offered the questionnaire on disk to the court.
Ogle asked both the prosecution and defense attorneys to review the questions to work out any disagreements with the materials before the questions were presented to the court.
According to court employees, this is the first time in Sevier County history that an attorney has asked for a questionnaire to be completed by jurors before selection.
On February 7, 2004, Attorney General pro tem, Joseph Baugh, the prosecuting attorney for the case, issued a request for sequestered jury. Paperwork obtained through Sevier County Circuit Court requested that “potential jurors selected and the jury when empanel for the trial of this matter by sequestered, guarded and kept apart from the general public during the voir dire and trial.”
The court set a date of April 8 and April 15 for pretrial discussions.
The trial is set to begin June 27.