Defense attorneys for women at center of “Facebook murders” ask for new trial

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JONESBOROUGH, TN (WJHL) – Two women at the center of the so-called “Facebook murders” were back in court on Monday.

Their attorneys are requesting a new trial after they claim new evidence was brought to light following the release of prosecutor Dennis Brooks’ new book about the trial.

On July 7, 2015, a judge sentenced Barbara Potter and her daughter Jenelle Potter to two concurrent life sentences each.

The two were found guilty of the 2012 murder of Johnson County couple Bill Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth.

It all started because the state says the victims “unfriended” Jenelle Potter on Facebook.

Those killings became nationally known as the “Facebook murders”.

But now, defense attorney HR Fallon is seeking a new trial.

“We filed a petition of writ of era coram nobis. It’s a Latin phrase that means basically newly discovered evidence,” Fallon said.

Defense attorneys said that evidence came from prosecutor Dennis Brooks’ book about the crime: “Too Pretty To Live: The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee”, which was published early last year.

“We found information in there that we felt had not been disclosed to us through the normal discovery process so that’s why we’re asking for a new trial based on that,” he said.

On Monday, four witnesses took the stand including Dennis Brooks, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Scott Lott, Joe Woodard with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and Assistant District Attorney of the first district, Matthew Roark.

Before the trial, Brooks met with co-defendant Jamie Curd several times.

Curd pleaded guilty to two counts of facilitation to commit first degree murder.

He was also a state witness.

Monday, Fallon asked, “how many times did you meet with Mr. Curd in preparing him for, or debriefing him as a witness?”

Brooks answered, “I can’t remember, at least 5 times.”

The defense argued that Brooks intentionally picked and chose what information from those meetings he would share during the trial as well as other evidence.

But District Attorney Barry Staubus argued the information that was left out was irrelevant to the case.

“We had a hearing and the state’s position is that there was overwhelming evidence of guilt and there was no failure to disclose new evidence and therefore the petitioners don’t deserve a new trial,” Staubus said.

He said a new trial would cause a lot of pain for the victims’ families.

“It would be something that they would have to endure again and it would be quite a traumatic event for anyone to have to go through this again,” he said.

The judge has 120 days to make a decision if evidence was not included in the Potters’ trial.

Barbara’s husband and Jenelle’s dad, Marvin Potter, was also convicted of the murders in 2013.Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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