7/24/09 – Alamo-case jury taking a 2nd day to deliberate

NWA News
July 24, 2009

Alamo-case jury taking a 2nd day to deliberate


The jury in the sex-crimes trial of evangelist Tony Alamo will reconvene today after deliberating for eight hours Thursday without reaching a verdict.

The jurors, who are deciding whether Alamo is guilty of 10 counts of taking underage girls across state lines for sex, began deliberations just after 8:15 a.m.

Throughout the day, they sent U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes two notes with questions about the law, and Barnes sent written responses. At 4:45 p.m., the nine men and three women on the jury filed back into the courtroom, where Barnes addressed them.

“I understand you are making progress and that probably you need a little bit more time,” the judge told them. “I know you’re tired. … Why don’t we break and go home and come back in the morning and begin to start your deliberations immediately.”

Alamo’s defense team took the jury’s need for extra time as a hopeful sign for Alamo, but prosecutors said the time wasn’t unusual for a case involving numerous charges and six days of testimony.

Alamo, who spent the day in a cell on the second floor of the federal courthouse in Texarkana, was “nervous, as anybody would be,” said his lead defense attorney, Don Ervin of Houston.

“This is one of the most difficult parts of the case, I think – waiting for the jury to come back, trying to figure out what they’re going to do, which you cannot do,” Ervin said.

Responding to questions shouted from reporters as he was escorted from the courthouse Thursday afternoon, Alamo said he didn’t know what to think.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

Asked if “God’s got a hand in this,” Alamo responded, “The Lord’s got a hand in everything.”

The 74-year-old leader of a multistate ministry with headquarters in Fouke in Miller County, Alamo is accused of taking five underage girls across state lines for sex from March 1994 through October 2005.

If convicted, Alamo faces up to 30 years on three of the counts, up to 15 years on three others and up to 10 years on the rest. Barnes could order the sentences to run at the same time or back to back.

During the nearly two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, some witnesses testified that Alamo had taken them as “wives” as young as 8, sexually abused them and kept them under his strict control at his house at the ministry’s compound in Fouke, where the witnesses lived with several other women.

The 10 counts in the indictment refer to trips to Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and California that Alamo is accused of sending the girls on or taking them with him, often in a 1969 Silver Eagle bus.

Alamo’s defense team said the trips were for church business or for other reasons, not for sex. The instructions given to jurors say Alamo can be found guilty only if sex was a “dominant motive” for the travel.

The prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon.

Alamo ministry members, critics and reporters camped out in the courtroom or at a coffee shop across the street from the courthouse as they awaited news Thursday.

About 11:15 a.m., Barnes summoned the attorneys to his chambers and told them the jury had sent him a note with two questions about the law. The jury sent another note with a question about the law about 2:45 p.m. Barnes sent notes with responses to each question. The questions weren’t disclosed, but Alamo’s attorneys said they boded well for their client.

The notes “indicate to me that they are working through the jury charge and working through the law and applying it to the facts of the case,” Ervin said. “If they do that, and do that intelligently and rationally, then they’ll acquit the defendant.”

After the jury went home for the day, Ervin said he was encouraged.

“The general rule is the longer the jury stays out, in a case like this especially, the better it is for the defendant,” he said.

Assistant U.S. attorney Chris Plumlee, a spokesman for the prosecution, disagreed.

“When you’re dealing with this number of counts and this amount of testimony, I don’t think it’s unusual that the jury is going to be very careful and make sure that they make the right decision based on all the information available,” Plumlee said.

He added, “I’ve seen cases that have been faster, and I’ve seen cases that have been longer. I don’t think you can really read anything into it.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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