SCOTTSBORO, Ala. - The jury is seated for a high-profile murder trial in Jackson County, and they've been told it could last two weeks. Barry Whitton is charged with the murder of his first wife, Michelle Whitton, in 1997.
The prosecution and defense gave opening statements to the jury on Monday. The prosecution described Michelle's manner of death and the events they say happened leading up to it. They described the family's life, that Barry and Michelle Whitton had been married for six years and had a young son at the time. The state says this case boils down to accountability and justice -- saying Michelle was out Christmas shopping before her death, but when she got home her husband attacked her, hit her in the head, and then cleaned up and took her body somewhere else.
The state urged the jury to pay attention to statements Barry Whitton has made that will be revealed during testimony. Prosecutors say they will point out several discrepancies.
The defense objected twice during the prosecution's opening statements. In the defense's opening statement, lawyers addressed the jury and said the Whittons started dating in 1990 and knew each other since childhood, having ridden the same school bus. The defense says there are some people in this case who knew what might have happened that day, but those people are now dead.
The defense says there is conflicting information on Michelle's whereabouts when she was initially reported missing, and attorneys claim testimony will reflect that. The defense says testimony will reveal information about a wallet that was found by Michelle's car, when officials found the car after she was reported missing. The defense says the wallet belonged to another man. They also said fingerprints found on the seat belt in her car add to the mystery.
The state objected once during the defense's opening statements.
There was no mention of the disappearance of Barry Whitton's second wife and stepdaughter, or other charges Whitton currently faces, including intimidating a witness.
The State called two officials to the stand. Both worked the initial investigation. They testified about the scene and the integrity of it during the initial process, both at the Whitton's home and at the burial site.
Forensic evidence, including photos of where Michelle Whitton's body was buried, were shown to the jury. Photographs of the Whitton's master bedroom showing cut outs in the rug and pictures of the blood testing were also shown. The State brought in packaged evidence from the scene, including the clothes Michelle had been wearing, fiber samples, and other items. A video of investigators working the scene was played for the jury.