District 6 trial postponed

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The trial set to continue today between Pike County’s District 6 Commissioner Karen Berry and her election opponent Oren Fannin has been postponed for at least 10 days.

And, based on last week’s trial, vote totals are expected to change.

Retired Lanett Judge Joel Holley heard testimonies from several Pike County voters, election officials and Berry in Pike County Circuit Court last Wednesday, but the absence of key witnesses delayed the trial’s conclusion.

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The witnesses, Karl, Mary and Brandon Kidd were subpoenaed by Fannin and attorney Joel Lee Williams, but due to medical emergency were unable to attend court. Williams argued the three, who cast absentee ballots for Berry in the election, all lived in District 4 and attempted to prove through tax records and the district map where the family resided.

Since three legal documents listed different addresses, the plaintiff’s would not rest without the testimony of at least one of the family members.

However, Berry’s attorney Frank Ralph consented Tuesday that he would agree those three do not live in District 6.

After the stipulation was filed, Holley said he would postpone the trial’s conclusion for another 10 days, giving the parties more time to prepare closing remarks.

“From evidence admitted about the map, Mr. Ralph said he and his client would stipulate the Kidds live outside District 6,” Holley said. “I’m giving the councils 10 days to follow any further pleading.”

Holley said those three votes from the Kidds would be considered illegal votes for Berry, who won the election by just six votes.

The question that remains is whether Fannin has or will prove at least three more votes were not legal in the race.

“Those three votes will be taken away from Mrs. Berry’s total, but in the testimony, Mr. Williams put on a witness or two that basically proved they lived outside the district and voted for Fannin,” Holley said.

In essence, if the judge rules all five of those votes out of the election, Fannin will only be one vote closer to the commission seat.

The testimony of voters, two of which said a notary did not witness their signatures, were part of Fannin’s allegations against Berry.

Plaintiff’s also contested Berry’s son Brent Berry and daughter-in-law Ashton voted absentee in the election but do not reside in Pike County. Brent testified he and his wife live in Shelby County but claim Karen Berry’s address as their home since they come almost every weekend.

Those, along with absentee ballots submitted in evidence and any further information presented in the trial’s conclusion, will determine whether Berry illegally won the election as Fannin alleges.

“The vote totals will probably end up changing some. Other than that, we’ll see what they argue then,” Holley said.

No date has been set for trial yet.