Live updates from the courtroom: Public corruption trial of suspended DA Mark Jones starts this morning in Muscogee County Superior Court

Local News

6:30 A jury in the Mark Jones public corruption trial has been seated.

They are to report to the Government Center where opening statements will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

It took all day and hundreds of questions to seat the jury.

6:25 p.m. The prosecution and defense are striking jurors. This process is being done from the two tables in front of the 36 people who could end up on the jury that will decide the fate of suspended DA Mark Jones.

It is being done without the names being announced, instead, a court official is going back and forth between the two tables.

4:30 p.m. Questioning of the third of four panels is complete.

Currently, 24 prospective jurors are qualified to be in the pool from which attorneys from both sides will select the jury. Seven prospective jurors have been dismissed by Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden from case.

In the last panel, defense attorney Katonga Wright asked prospective jurors a number of questions about whether they drank alcohol or not. She asked those who said they did not partake if they had quit.

A critical piece of state’s evidence is expected to be a bodycam video of DA Mark Jones having a conversation with Columbus Police office Sherman Hayes. Jones appeared to be intoxicated in that video.

The selection process is continuing at this hour.

2:15 p.m. The second round of voir dire — questioning of prospective jurors in the public corruption case of suspended DA Mark Jones — has begun at the Civic Center Ice Rink.

Thus far, four potential jurors have been dismissed from the pool for cause.

1 p.m. Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden has dismissed court for lunch.

The questioning of the first jury panel took almost three hours. The end result was 12 potential jurors and four dismissed. The 12 will go into a pool of about 36 people from which the 12 jurors and two alternates will be picked.

The questioning of the second panel will start at 2:15.

One of the potential jurors Lumsden dismissed was related by marriage to a prosecutor Jones fired when he took office. Another told the judge she had formed an opinion and could not be fair.

“From what I have seen and read, I have formed an opinion on his (Jones) character,” the woman told the court.”

A man who said he had an opinion was allowed to stay in the pool when he told the judge and attorneys he could put that opinion aside and be fair.

12:40 p.m. Questioning of the first panel of 15 prospective jurors has now extended to well over two hours.

Suspended DA Mark Jones’ attorney Katonga Wright began her questioning by asking the prospective jurors to be honest about any biases they may have. She told the following story to illustrate her point:

“If I were asked to judge a pie contest and I don’t like chocolate pie and one of the pies is chocolate, should I tell them? Would it be fair if I didn’t?”

Wright was asking individual members of the jury pool about any preconceived opinions of Jones, who was elected to the office in November 2020 and took office on Jan. 2.

Only one potential juror has been dismissed thus far. The woman told the court she was related to Jones by marriage.

11:20 a.m. Prospective jurors in the public corruption trial of suspended DA Mark Jones were just given their first break.

For the last hour, Deputy Attorney General John Fowler has been questioning the first panel of 15 possible jurors.

Fowler is asking them about any legal issues they might have had. He asked one prospective juror about when he knew about Jones on social media. The older man described the bodycam video that was released a week ago by multiple media outlets.

That video is the centerpiece of the state’s case against Jones. The state alleges that Jones asked Columbus Police officer Sherman Hayes to lie under oath to upgrade involuntary manslaughter charges to murder against 20-year-old Elijah Farral.

The potential juror told Fowler if Jones did that, “then, he was wrong.”

The man also told the deputy attorney general he could be fair if put on the jury.

9:40 a.m. Superior Court Judge Katherine approved attorney Katonga Wright’s appearance to represent embattled DA Mark Jones.

Wright immediately asked for a continuance, which Lumsden denied. Jury selection will begin this morning. The one concession that Lumsden gave to Wright, who entered the case Sunday night, is that opening statements will not be held until Tuesday morning.

Mark Jones, right, and his criminal defense attorney Katonga Wright.

Jones’ previous attorney Chris Breault will not be representing the DA because Breault is a witness in the case.

9:25 a.m. COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The trial for embattled Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones is about to start Monday morning in the Civic Center Ice Rink.

Jones, facing a nine-count public corruption indictment that alleges he asked a Columbus Police officer to lie under oath to upgrade an involuntary manslaughter charge to murder.

Jones entered the building just before 9 a.m. He was accompanied by his former attorney Chris Breault, who Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden removed from the case in a ruling last week. Breault is a potential witness in the case.

Jones declined to comment. He was also accompanied by Columbus attorney Katonga Wright. It is unclear what Wright’s involvement in the case, if any, will be. She was sitting at the defense table prior to Lumsden taking the bench.

Breault had a copy of the Georgia bar rules.

“It says I can’t be an advocate at trial,” Breault said. “All of this is illegal.”

There are 350 potential jurors who have been summoned for jury selection today and another 350 on Tuesday. There are also two other trials scheduled to happen in Superior Court.

The case is being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s office. The prosecutor is Deputy Attorney General John Fowler, who heads the Prosecution Division.

News 3 will update this report throughout the day.

11/08/21 — A recap of suspended DA Mark Jones legal troubles as state prepares to prosecute him Monday in public corruption trial

10/22/2021 – Office manager for Muscogee County District Attorney suspended, tells News 3 she plans to resign

10/21/2021 – Judge weighing decision on whether to remove embattled DA Mark Jones’ criminal defense attorney

10/19/2021 – State asks judge to remove Chris Breault as DA Mark Jones’ criminal defense attorney

10/13/2021 – New prosecution allegations in suspended DA Mark Jones case raise questions about cocaine use

10/12/2021 – Chris Breault representing suspended District Attorney Mark Jones in criminal case

10/08/2021 – State claims embattled DA Mark Jones had issues at a downtown bar before he allegedly asked cop to lie under oath

10/07/2021 – Prosecutor includes ‘illegal drugs’ restriction in bond modification motion for suspended DA Mark Jones

10/07/2021 – State motion in criminal case against DA Mark Jones claims he ‘disregards law and ethics to win murder cases’

10/04/2021 – Governor suspends embattled District Attorney Mark Jones

9/16/2021 – DA Mark Jones’ indictment: He’s accused of asking a police officer to lie so charge could be upgraded to murder

09/07/2021 – News 3 interviews D.A. Mark Jones on his way out of jail

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