Mother Accused of Stoning Sons Will Stand Trial - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

03/17/04 - Tyler

Mother Accused of Stoning Sons Will Stand Trial

The trial date for Deanna Laney is March 29th, and more than a thousand people have been called for the jury pool.

Laney appeared in court Wednesday morning as attorneys on both sides are still ironing out issues before trial. She was emotional as she was led in to Judge Cynthia Kent's courtroom.  Family and friends gathered to show their support.

Laney's attorney Buck Files intends to present an insanity defense to the jury. Selection of jurors begins next Wednesday, with a central jury call of 1200 people. It's expected the two counts of captial murder and one count of injury to a child will be combined to speed up the trial.

Defense attorney Buck Files: "It just makes sense. The facts are the same, the witnesses are the same, the experts are the same. There's no reason to have two trials when you can have one trial. Nobody gets a benefit.   Nobody gets a "minus."  It's just the way it ought to be."

Combining the cases into one, and by both sides agreeing to facts in the case, is expected to shorten the trial to about two weeks.

Today we spoke to an East Texas attorney who has been both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer.  He says the first order of business in jury selection will be to figure out who has made up their minds.

"If somebody raises up their hand and says, 'Yes, I've made up my mind, then that's it for them."

Out of 1200, twelve jurors will decide. Their job is to decide why this wife and mother snapped.

"People have such strong visceral feelings about it." Attorney Robert Perkins has seen many a defendant try to claim they weren't sane.

"It's my understanding that all the experts are in agreement, the state and defense experts have come to the consensus that she's not guilty by reason of insanity. If she's not sane at the time of the offense," he says about this case.

Laney was ruled competent to stand trial. And only a jury, not a judge, not a prosector, can decide someone isn't sane.

"It's the equivalent of trying a child that can't differentiate between right and wrong."

The more than a hundred who make it to the final jury selection will be pressed hard on their beliefs. Perkins says it's only easy to weed out some of them.

"There will be people who say, 'I don't care if she's insane or not. Hang her.' And then there will be people who will say because a mental disease this horrible tragedy happened. And there will be everything in between."

It's that in-between -- the open mind -- that lawyers will look for.

"Judge Kent recognizes that so she summond a whole bunch of people with hopes of getting just a few people who can be fair and impartial."

As for the attorneys, they can't speak to the media about many of the details because of Judge Kent's order. They answered basic questions about procedure today. Perkins says it's the way it should be -- letting the legal process run it's course.

"I commend both sides for the way they've handled it so far."

Reported by Morgan Palmer

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