JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — All three members of a Johnson County family who were sentenced to life in prison in the high-profile “Facebook murders” case appeared in Washington County Criminal Court Tuesday, July 13.
Juries previously found Marvin “Buddy” Potter, his wife Barbara Potter, and their daughter Jenelle Potter each guilty of first-degree murder for the 2012 shooting deaths of a young couple inside their home in Mountain City, Bill Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth. Prosecutors said Marvin Potter shot and killed the couple after Jenelle told him they had a social media dispute which included “unfriending” and alleged harassment. All three were sentenced to life in prison for their roles.
Marvin was tried and convicted of double-homicide in 2013, Jenelle and Barbara in 2015 in a joint trial.
Tuesday’s post-conviction hearing marked the first time any of the three convicted Potter family members testified before a judge.
“Right now, her (Barbara) and my daughter both know I did this,” admitted Marvin Potter Tuesday.
Marvin Potter finally, before his family and a judge, confessed fully to the 2012 murder of Bill Payne, one of the two first-degree murder convictions he is jailed on today. He never testified in his own trial or the trial of his family members to give an account of what happened that early morning the murder took place.
“It wasn’t planned to kill him. But, I did,” said Marvin Potter in court Tuesday.
Marvin told the courtroom his convicted accomplice Jamie Curd, who took a plea deal for his role in the murders, killed Bill Payne’s girlfriend, Billie Jean Hayworth. However, Marvin is charged in her death.
“Ten to twelve seconds after my gun went off I heard another shot. I was coming out of the room, I got right to the door and Curd went flying past me like a bolt of lightening,” admitted Marvin Potter.
The two attorneys for Marvin’s daughter Jenelle and wife Barbara are asking for new trials. Both women are also convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in allegedly planning and conspiring the murders of the young couple. They have been in jail since their 2015 guilty verdicts.
“I just feel like they didn’t look outside the box. They wanted someone to blame and they blamed me,” said Jenelle in Tuesday’s hearing.
The attorneys for the mother-daughter duo say if dad’s testimony had been used in the joint trial of the two women in 2015, it might have made a difference to the jury. Marvin testified Tuesday that his wife and daughter played no role in convincing him to kill.
“Would this have been your testimony at Barbara’s trial?” asked Barbara Potter’s current defense attorney Scott Shults. “Yes Sir,” answered Marvin Potter. “It wouldn’t have changed one bit. That’s the truth about what happened.”
The defense teams also allege that because the original defense attorney Randy Fallin represented Barbara Potter after defending her husband Marvin Potter in his original trial, Fallin was potentially biased in his approach to her defense following Marvin’s conviction. Fallin testified in court this was not the case.
The defense attorneys also called North Carolina attorney Tate Davis, who assisted in trial and legal proceedings for both Barbara and Marvin, to testify on his account of the representation. He said at times, he was concerned the women might not be getting completely fair legal representation. Many of these concerns were surrounding the fact that Barbara Potter executed power of attorney to Jessica Fallin, Randy Fallin’s daughter and an attorney for his office. Davis testified he brought this concern up to Randy Fallin.
Davis also testified at times he believed Fallin’s office might have been planning to get the two women, their clients, convicted.
The judge said he wants proof that any conflict of interest adversely affected the trials.
Jenelle Potter’s main defense attorney at the time of her trial, Cameron Hyder, also took the stand Tuesday. He testified he filed her original appeal motion to her conviction one day late, which may have resulted in a prejudice against her. Hyder said in court he still believes to this day that his former client, Jenelle, is innocent.
Deputy District Attorney General Dennis Brooks says the state does not see the need for a new trial for either women, already convicted of the first-degree “Facebook Murders.”
“Jenelle Potter and also through her mother had inflamed Buddy Potter to the point where he would commit such a heinous act,” Brooks told News Channel 11 after Tuesday’s hearing.
Closing arguments will pick back up at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Washington County Court.