Defense: Politics a key strategy in Victor Hill trial

JONESBORO, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has new information on part of the strategy Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill's defense team plans to pursue.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne, who has broken many key developments in the Hill case, says that strategy involves politics.

"The whole point today is to select a group of jurors who are fair and impartial to both sides, and they should not feel influenced by anyone in this courtroom. And so we would ask that the court admonish the jurors to that effect," said special prosecutor Layla Zon.

Hill lawyers Steve Frey, Drew Findling and Musa Ghanayem told Winne that Hill has not wavered an iota on his claims of innocence pertaining to an indictment now pared down to 28 counts. Racketeering, false statements and theft are among those counts.

Jury selection began Monday and lawyers indicated they expect it to take several days.

One wonders if some of Frey's questions foreshadow the kind of defense they will pursue.

"Does everyone agree with me that politics and the criminal justice system should never meld?" Frey asked the court.

Findling says Hill continues to maintain the allegations arise from political motivation, and that will play a role in the defense.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson's position has been that she brought in an independent DA to prosecute as a neutral person who would review the evidence and make an independent evaluation.

Zon is the lead prosecutor in the case. She is district attorney in another circuit.

Winne got some insight about the case from former Clayton County district attorney Jewel Scott.

Scott believes the prosecution in the Hill case will have trouble finding 12 jurors who will vote the way prosecutors want them to because the jury pool comes from Clayton County voter rolls.

"My belief is that the state is going to have a really tough burden to find 12 objective jurors that are going to listen to the evidence and do what (prosecutors) want them to do, which is return a guilty verdict," Scott said.

"It comes from the voter list. The very voters that know that there was an indictment hanging over Sheriff Hill's head, that put him in office," Scott said.

Scott acknowledges she supports Hill and is on the other side of the political divide from the current district attorney, who has brought in prosecutor Zon from out of the county.

"I'm very supportive of our elected sheriff at this point," Scott said.

But Scott says politics doesn't affect her jury analysis.

The former district attorney, now defense attorney, says however the jury turns out, both sides have a good judge.

"Judge Collier is a fair judge and I believe that fairness comes from having very solid Christian principles," said Collier. "I know that that will play. It's an integral part of his life so that will play in his role as judge in this case."

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