Thursday, December 8, 2005

Jury goes to Yazoo
• Guilty verdict returned; death sentence recommended

Staff Writer

A Marshall County jury has returned a guilty verdict and death sentence in a highly-publicized capital murder trial in Yazoo County.

The trial of Earnest Lee Hargon was concluded in three days of testimony and presentation of other evidence last week. Hargon was convicted Saturday in the murders of his cousin, Michael Hargon, 27, Michael’s wife, Rebecca, 29, and the couple’s 4-year-old son, Patrick.

Then, Monday of this week during the sentencing phase, the jury said Hargon should receive the death penalty for two of three murders, the mother and the child, and life imprisonment for a third one.

The jury selection process in Marshall County began November 28 when 218 county residents answered summonses for jury duty in person in the Marshall County courthouse. A group of 52 prospective jurors formed the final jury pool and 16 jurors were named from that panel mid-afternoon Wednesday and transported directly to Yazoo City by coach that evening.

They left with a seven-day supply of clothing, personal supplies, medication they would need, but were instructed to carry no cell phones or computers and not bring any crime-related reading material.

Of the 16, 12 of whom served as jurors and four as alternates, five were males.

As the Voir Dire (truth finding) process neared completion Wednesday before the announcement of the names of the final jurists in the Marshall County Circuit Courtroom at 2 p.m., 52 prospective jurors endured the final moments of suspense.

Lucy Carpenter, Marshall County circuit clerk, plied the group with humor.

“You won’t have to ride in a school bus,” she said. “They have provided a courier and have planned for good meals and snacks. When you get home you will have to go on a diet before Christmas.

“I thank you for your patience and willingness to do this. It is absolutely necessary to the system (of justice).”

Some family members or work associates of the prospective jurors came to the courtroom to either say goodbye or to be ready take them home.

Prospective jurors, dragging packed bags up to the courtroom, wore varied apparel. Some wore faded jeans or daywear, some wore street wear and a good many ladies had apparently had their hair done. The mood was generally subdued at first then as time passed many prospective jurors turned to a neighbor beside or behind them to talk. The mood fluctuated from one of giddiness to joy to quiet acceptance. Some sat alone.

Susie Bradshaw, Yazoo County circuit clerk who was present throughout the jury selection process, expressed her gratitude.

“We appreciate y’all’s hospitality and I hope to do everything I can do to treat you as well as Lucy has us,” she said.

At roll call the group became more talkative and laughter erupted from time to time.

After roll call court clerks waited for about five prospective jurors who had failed to return to the courtroom. When the last prospective juror arrived about 25 minutes late, Carpenter quipped, “If you come in late, you are one of the first ones chosen.”

Minutes later after about half the jury was impanelled, the name of that juror was called and laughter erupted.

Circuit Court Judge Jannie Lewis reviewed the rules for the jury before they departed for Yazoo City.

“This court cannot express the patience you have shown,” she said. “You could have come up with many excuses and said ‘this is Yazoo business.’ ”

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