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Jury seated, wife's murder trial set to start

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The two tables in the front of the courtroom were covered in paper. The paper was piled in stacks -- computer print-outs and pads of yellow, lined paper. And the attorney for the prosecution and the attorney for the defense each sat at a table, trying to keep track of all the jurors on the list.

"Juror No. 1," said Judge Geronda Carter.

"Accepted by the state," said prosecutor John Turner.

"Accepted by defense," said Malcolm Wells, the attorney representing Carolyn Allene Skinner, the 51-year-old woman accused of conspiring with her lover to kill her husband for his life insurance policy.

The two attorneys questioned the whole pool of potential jurors in the first day of the trial, and accepted 12 jurors and two alternates, by about 4:30 p.m. Each side struck six candidates and the last juror seated was the 32nd name on the court clerk's list. Jurors were told to be back on the fourth floor of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center at 8:30 a.m., Tuesday for the opening arguments in the murder trial.

Turner is expected to argue that Allene Skinner had been thinking about having her husband killed for more than a decade. She allegedly convinced a police officer to do it in June 2007, after she married the man, Charles Alan Smith, in an unofficial ceremony, and told him an elaborate story about how she was working undercover with the CIA, and her truck-driver husband was associated with dangerous people threatening her life.

Turner will argue that Allene Skinner manipulated the police officer, because she wanted the $90,000 life insurance policy.

Smith pleaded guilty, a month ago. He confessed to the crime immediately after being arrested, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. He told Clayton County police he ambushed Donald Skinner, waiting in the dark while the man parked his refrigerated truck of fish.

He said he shot him four times, heard him say, "why?" and then die. He said he was stupid to believe a story some have characterized as a crazy story "only a fool in love would believe." He said he would never have committed murder, if he hadn't been under the sway of Allene Skinner.

Wells is expected to argue that Allene Skinner broke up with the police officer, and the officer, jilted and angry, murdered her husband because he was jealous.

Wells is expected to say that Allene Skinner didn't want her husband dead, didn't manipulate her lover or conspire to commit murder, but just had trouble with men and money.

She made a claim on the life insurance policy during the police department's investigation, and lied to police, repeatedly. But Wells will reportedly explain that she was embarrassed by her infidelity and needed the money to bury her husband of 17 years.

The jury is expected to hear those arguments on Tuesday morning, and then see the actual evidence against the 51-year-old woman.

Allene Skinner faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison, if she's found guilty by the jury.