Christmas Tree Located At The Houston Co. Courthouse Creates Controversy

It was put up by V.O.C.A.L. or victims of crime and leniency and some say it could cause legal problems.

The issue lies not with fact that there is a Christmas tree in the courthouse, but that there are ornaments on that tree with the pictures of murder victims.

Some defense lawyers claim having the tree may influence jurors come Monday, when jury trials are slated to resume.

"It’s very important that we remember them in some small way," commented Pat Riley Jones, V.O.C.A.L.

This is why Pat Riley Jones said she decided to display her Christmas tree in the lobby of the Houston County Courthouse. The tree is decorated with ornaments displaying the picture of someone who was murdered.

"We just wanted people to realize and think about the victims families during Christmas and that’s all we did. We did not do this to try to cause a disturbance to anyone," commented Jones.

But some say the tree is inappropriate. Defense attorney billy j. Sheffield filed a motion Tuesday to have a case he is working stayed until the tree is removed. The motion cites several issues including quote

"...it is a highly prejudicial and inflammatory display...."

"can you understand why defense attorneys are saying this tree can potentially influence or prejudice a jury?" said reporter.

"No I do not understand that at all. the only thing that we have done is put up a Christmas tree in memory of our loved ones and now we cant even enjoy that," said Jones.

The tree is in a very high-traffic area between a jury assembly room and the elevators. I spoke with several people about the tree; most saying they supported the idea of remembering the victims of violent crime.

"Families have to deal with this the rest of their lives I mean the victims we should keep that tree there i dont think it this is a reason to put it down, in fact I think we should put two trees there,” said Jason Grimsley, supporter.

I did attempt to get a comment from Billy Joe Sheffield, the attorney who filed the motion. I also spoke with other lawyers off camera. They say they respect the tree and victims of violent crime, but they are worried the tree will influence jurors.


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