Sequestered jury for death penalty trial

By Kathy Jefcoats

When the death penalty case against Raymond Jenkins comes to trial, not likely before 2005, jurors hearing evidence will be sequestered and sheriff's bailiffs will undergo training in communicating with them.

More than 60 defense motions in the double murder case were heard in Henry Superior Court Friday. Jenkins faces the death penalty if convicted of killing his girlfriend, Guilene Marie Cherisme, 31, and her daughter, Joyce Isabell Cherisme, 3, almost a year ago.

Jenkins, 42, was a U.S. Customs inspector at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at the time of the July 3 killings. Guilene Cherisme, a native of Haiti, worked at the airport as a translator. She lived in Jonesboro.

Prosecutors say he shot the mother and daughter after an argument with Guilene Cherisme at his Locust Grove home on Beulah Lane. They allege he wrapped them in blankets and drove them to an area near Mobile, Ala., and dumped the bodies in the water.

Henry County Police Lt. Joe Tammaro said at the time that Jenkins led police to the bodies in Washington Parish, La. Flint District Attorney Tommy Floyd said Jenkins dismembered the bodies before dumping them.

He is being represented by local attorneys Lee Sexton and Ricky Morris and is held without bond in the Henry County Jail.

Not all the motions were decided on. In fact, Sexton withdrew several including a change of venue and gag order request.

There was some discussion, however, on his motion to close all evidentiary hearings to avoid tainting the jury pool.

Floyd opted for using other methods at the court's disposal to handle pretrial publicity. McGarity denied the motion as stated.

"But I will give you the right to bring it on an individual basis, a motion by motion basis," he said.

Sexton asked for a translator for the defense for certain witnesses because Cherisme's native language – and that of her family – is Creole. He also advised McGarity to expect national publicity because of the unique defense he expects to present.

"I am expecting the report from an expert next month," he said, without elaborating on what the defense will be.

A number of motions concerned jury selection and pool. It was agreed that McGarity will be the only person allowed to let a potential juror off the panel but the judge nixed Sexton's motions to not let alternates know they are alternates and to seal jurors' notebooks after the trial.

McGarity ruled that the jury, once selected, will be sequestered. He also told the attorneys that sheriff's bailiffs, who will be in close contact with jurors, will be trained before the trial on how to communicate with them. McGarity said bailiff-juror contact has been a source of controversy in recent Georgia cases and he is seeking to avoid problems in Henry County.

Evidentiary hearings will likely begin in September with the trial not expected to start before the end of the year.