What could come in District 6?

Published 11:32 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

Judge Joel Holley didn’t stutter from the stand in the Pike County Courtroom Wednesday when he said, “Someone here today has committed perjury.”

This came after hearing the final evidence in the Pike County Commission District 6 election contest, where Oren Fannin is alleging his November 2008 election opponent Karen Berry won with illegal votes.

Evidence presented in the courtroom came in the testimony of three — Ashley Berry, ex-daughter-in-law of Karen Berry; Brent Berry, the commissioner’s son; and notary Kathy Lunsford Griffin.

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The testimony of Ashley Berry, where she claimed she did not vote in the absentee election even though a ballot had been cast for Berry with her name on it, and that of Brent Berry, claiming both he and his wife were at Berry’s house and both cast ballots, contradicted each other.

And, Ashley Berry’s testimony didn’t comply with Griffin’s testimony that she witnessed the two sign their absentee ballot affidavits.

“Someone is lying here today,” said Holley, who is ruling in the case.

And Holley also asked Fannin’s attorney Joel Lee Williams if he was planning to seek any criminal prosecution. Williams said it was not his plan at the moment, but it may not be entirely up to him.

Criminal prosecutions are tried in the Pike County District Court by the local District Attorney’s office.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Anderson said he would not comment on potential evidence brought forth in this pending trial, but he did say if anything were to be prosecuted, his office would likely be the ones doing it.

“I will not comment specifically on anything occurring in those cases,” Anderson said.

Anderson said perjury, depending on the degree, could be considered a Class C felony.

“We have prosecuted perjury cases, but we usually do them based on things that come out of our trials,” Anderson said.

“It would have to be something we’d be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt before we would prosecute.”

Another alleged criminal act could have been brought forth in the case, if what Ashley Berry told the court holds true.

Ashley Berry said Brent Berry offered her money to not appear in court Wednesday and testify against his mother. Brent Berry did admit he asked her not to come.

Anderson said he would not comment on whether the act could be considered witness tampering or could lead to prosecution.

And, of course, if Holley rules in favor of Fannin, a question of voter fraud or some type of election offense arises.

Alabama Secretary of State Election Attorney Rob Johnston said any type of election investigation is up to the district attorney or attorney general.

Johnston also said the judge ruling could make any call he likes in the verdict of the trial in regards to possible offenses.

“Whatever decision the judge makes, they make those decisions and do it based upon what they hear and what they see in court,” Johnston said.

“Since its in the court, its really the judge’s discretion.”

Holley is expected to make a final ruling sometime in the next two weeks by filing it in the Pike County Circuit Clerk’s office.