Ca­sola gives tes­ti­mony in Barnes case

De­fense wants venue change

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyler Smith

For the first time in open court, an emo­tional Stephanie Ca­sola tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day about the May 2006 at­tack on her and her fam­ily.

The tes­ti­mony was given dur­ing a pre­trial hear­ing of her al­leged at­tacker Laney Barnes.

Ca­sola said she ex­ited the McDon­ald’s with her sons Ja­cob Ca­sola, 5, and Isaac Ca­sola, 4, along with sis­ter Anita King and 2-year-old niece Avery King. As they stepped off the curb into an empty park­ing spot, Ca­sola said she heard a car ap­proach­ing her fam­ily. She looked up and saw the car and driver stopped in front of the park­ing spot.

“(He stopped) long enough (for me) to feel com­fort­able he was go­ing to let us get over,” Ca­sola said. “He smiled. I smiled back. Then I heard the rev of an en­gine and the next thing I knew, we were un­der a car.”

Ca­sola said she had no doubt the as­sault had been in­tended.

“All I can as­sume is that he was wait­ing for us to get closer so he could nail my ba­bies,” said a tear­ful Ca­sola.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Ca­sola was life flighted to Grady Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal in At­lanta. While Ca­sola was wait­ing for surgery, Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­tec­tive DJ Seals vis­ited her in the hospi­tal. Seals brought a pho­to­graphic lineup to de­ter­mine if Ca­sola could iden­tify her at­tacker.

Ca­sola tes­ti­fied she was on sev­eral drugs, in­clud­ing mor­phine, at that time.

“They prob­a­bly had me more se­dated than I re­al­ized,” Ca­sola said. “I didn’t even know if my ba­bies are dead or alive.”

While she was se­dated, doc­tors did not tell Ca­sola the dire con­di­tion of her sons, nor did they in­form her of the death of her niece Avery King.

Seals told the court that Ca­sola seemed to be in and out of fo­cus and did not im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize him even though their boys played soc­cer to­gether. De­spite her lim­i­ta­tions, Ca­sola said thought she could still pick out his pic­ture.

“He tried to kill my boys,” she said. “I wanted to get him.”

Be­cause of the med­i­ca­tion and her in­juries, Ca­sola was un­able to hold the lineup in her hand. Seals re­port­edly had to hold the sheet of pa­per over her face while she lay on her back.

Ca­sola and Seals tes­ti­fied that she did not iden­tify the man the CPD had in cus­tody. She was only told af­ter­ward that she had not iden­ti­fied their sus­pect.

“I just re­al­ized I made a big mis­take,” Ca­sola said.

But in court Wed­nes­day, she did iden­tify Barnes as her at­tacker.

Also dur­ing hear­ings on Thurs­day New­ton County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ken Wynne pressed Judge Gene Ben­ton to al­low the state their own men­tal eval­u­a­tion of Barnes. The de­fense ar­gued that at this time, the state is not en­ti­tled to have Barnes eval­u­ated be­cause they have not de­cided to use in­san­ity has a de­fense. Un­der Ge­or­gia law, the state is only al­lowed to have their own men­tal eval­u­a­tion if the de­fense uses an ex­pert wit­ness to prove the de­fen­dant is in­sane, Adams said.

The de­fense also pre­sented ev­i­dence of pos­si­ble faults in the grand jury se­lec­tion process in New­ton County. Their ar­gu­ment is that the growth and ex­pand­ing di­ver­sity of the county has made the grand jury in­valid be­cause it was se­lected based on age, race and sex per­cent­ages in the county ac­cord­ing to the 2000 US Cen­sus.

They ar­gued that the county has changed so much since 2000 that the cen­sus is not a le­git­i­mate way to de­ter­mine those per­cent­ages. Par­tic­u­larly un­der­rep­re­sented, the de­fense said, are Lati­nos. In the 2000 cen­sus, race is de­fined as white, black or other. The de­fense ar­gued the in­flux of Lati­nos into the county has made it nec­es­sary to in­clude them as their own group.

Wynne ar­gued sim­ply that the grand jury was se­lected in ac­cor­dance with the law and was thus com­pletely valid.

A sim­i­lar mo­tion has also been filed by the de­fense of ac­cused mur­derer Cobey Lakem­per. Both de­fenses called sev­eral of the same wit­nesses in­clud­ing Clerk of Court Linda Hayes, Cov­ing­ton/New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent John Boothby and Jef­fery Martin, an ex­pert in sta­tis­tics, de­mog­ra­phy and jury com­po­si­tion.

Marin said New­ton County has the sev­enth high­est de­mo­graphic change of all Ge­or­gia coun­ties.

Ben­ton also heard tes­ti­mony in the de­fense’s mo­tion for a change of venue. The de­fense ar­gued Barnes can­not get a fair trail in New­ton County due to the amount of news cov­er­age the case re­ceived. De­fense at­tor­ney Chris Carter of the Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit Pub­lic De­fender’s Of­fice said, in sev­eral in­stances, the me­dia cov­er­age had been bi­ased against Barnes. Par­tic­u­larly, Carter said, some of the pic­tures run of Barnes had a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion.

Sy­bil Daily, cir­cu­la­tion man­ager for The News, and Collin Ste­wart, man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the Rock­dale Cit­i­zen and New­ton Cit­i­zen, tes­ti­fied about the cir­cu­la­tion of the news­pa­pers in New­ton County. Ste­wart also spoke about the in­ter­est level in the case.

None of the mo­tions dis­cussed in the three days of hear­ings were ruled on by Ben­ton. The mo­tions will again be heard at a yet-to-be-sched­uled date.


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