Trial moves to next stages

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

MARION-From this point on it will be Marion Mayor Tony Long’s attorney Jim Barnes calling the witnesses to the stand in the trial of the Marion mayor’s election contest. Robert Bryant’s team of attorney’s completed the questioning of their witnesses Tuesday afternoon prompting both sides to review the trial to this point.

Barnes again went through some of the key arguments in the case and said he did not feel Bryant and his team had proven any illegal activity had taken place beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We feel that they have failed to prove that there was any malicious conduct in this case,” Barnes said. “We heard testimony from Mr. Bryant and Mr. Turner concerning differences in signatures between affidavits and applications. The objection we continue to make is that Bryant is not qualified as an expert in handwriting.”

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Barnes continued to argue that any testimony Bryant had given as to different signatures was all opinion.

Bryant’s attorney Robert Turner said his client did not have to be an expert. He said the differences were so clear anyone could have seen the problem.

“A layperson could look at the handwriting and notice some of the applications looked shaky and others looked smooth,” Turner said. “Sometimes the signatures were so different they did not even spell the names the same.”

AS for having others sign their ballots, Barnes said this argument should not hold up either. Barnes said there was nothing immoral about an elderly or disabled person having a spouse sign for them as long as they had not intended to cheat the system.

“As long as a ballot does not violate the sanctity of the election these votes should be allowed and should be counted,” Barnes said. “As long as they made an honest effort to vote properly and did not violate the sanctity of the election there should be no problem.”

Bryant’s team said there likely was no intent to cause problems in the election in some cases, but the law was stated very clearly on the subject.

“It is important for us to remember the sanctity of the voting process,” Turner said. “The instructions on the envelopes clearly say every person must sign the application and affidavit.”

Turner said there are cases where they may make their mark and have someone sign, but this procedure was not followed.

One of the key arguments in Bryant’s case has been the alarming amount of information that had been sent to P.O. Boxes 515 and 536. Turner broke down the numbers district by district in his arguments Tuesday.

With box 536, Turner said there were 10 applications from District One, 13 from District Two, five from District Three and 11 from District Four.

Box 515 received 12 applications from District One, 11 from District Two, 15 from District Three and two from District Four.

Turner said they had reviewed the ballots and felt they had proven there were 123, probably more, absentee ballots illegally cast. One case involved ballots cast by convicted felons.

“We feel we have met our burden,” Turner said. “There were a number of times that convicted felons voted in this case. It does not matter if a persons name appears on a registrars list, if they are a convicted felon they should not be allowed to vote in an election if their liberties have not been restored.”

Turner also questioned some of the absentee ballots for citizen’s who were in town on the day of the election. Barnes defended these ballots by saying in many cases people’s plans may change from the time they apply for an absentee ballot to the time the election rolls around.

“Just because someone is in town on Election Day does not mean their vote should be excluded,” Barnes said. “Sometimes plans change. That person may have had plans they had to change and for that reason we feel that grounds for testimony has failed.”

Barnes said reviewing the overall facts of the case to this point it did not appear as if the election results should be changed.

“There has been no real evidence before the court on behalf of the voters,” Barnes said. “To disenfranchise and take votes away would be a travesty of justice.”

Turner said he felt they had made their case very clear and felt Bryant should be the new Mayor of Marion.

“We have tried hard to present a case based on what the law says,” Turner said. “We feel we have done that. We feel we have produced enough evidence to place Robert Bryant in the mayor’s seat.”

The trial will continue this morning with Barnes bringing more witnesses to the stand at 9 a.m.