Jeff Norton was found murdered on July 18, 2010 and his yard man was charged with first degree murder.
What I’m about to share is my perception of the trial filtered through the lens of my experience. Certainly everyone who attended the trial saw it differently. Not that anyone thought that Lafoe was innocent, but at times what we were hearing seemed like too much to take in.
At times, I didn’t take notes, because it seemed so unnecessary. To me the evidence was clear and pointed to Lafoe’s guilt without question, so there was no need for them. Since I’m writing from my notes, some of which are really hard to decipher, some parts of the trial will not be discussed except in general terms.
Please feel free to make comments or corrections. In any event, the trial transcript will reflect the actual words used if someone wants to check. You may wonder why I didn’t write this post as it occurred. I was not willing to do anything to jeopardize this case including write about it before the trial was over. And to write about it without publishing seemed to risky as well. What if I accidently hit the publish button by accident?
June 12, 2012 was the day for jury selection. It was scheduled to be held in a huge courtroom instead of the usual courtroom. Judge Ley presided. The prosecution attorney William A Loughery and defense attorney John Thor White agreed that Jeff Norton was found murdered on July 18, 2010 before the jury pool was supposed to be brought in.
John Thor White then said that he had a paper his client wanted him to read because he had no reading glasses. Thor White said he was unaware of the contents and said it came out of the blue.
Thomas Lafoe asked for a continuance because:
- He was not provided with full discovery of witnesses Thor White responded saying he met with Lafoe 4-5 times and he didn’t want discovery as recently as 1 1/2 weeks ago.
- He wanted a psychiatric evaluation before the trial There was no reason to order one
- He wanted reputational character witnesses called. Thor White said it was not a viable option as one mentioned was a drug dealer and would embarress the defense. Another one turned out to be a witness for the state. Lafoe ultimately decided not to pursue this option
- He was not given full information regarding all witnesses depositions naming a specific witness for the state. See the first bullet above
- No pretrial motions were filed on his behalf. Thor White said there was no need for pretrial motions
- He made some comment about the detectives, Gibson and Tower. Gibson is currently employed by the State Attorney’s office. [After the court business was wrapped up on the last day of the trial and out of the presence of the jury, John Thor White referred to Gibson as "My nemesis for the last 20 years" with a smile and shake of his head.]
During the time Thor White was addressing the judge, Lafoe interjected with comments on his own behalf. He showed such lack of judgement in his thought process I was hoping he’d testify. Surely any jury would be able to see right through him.
Witnesses who were neighbors were discussed regarding cryptic comments Lafoe made to them regarding the murder that showed an unusual interest and knowledge. This is what drew the police to him.
Lafoe rushed in to explain away witness statements to Judge Ley stating the statements referred to his being in a fight in his front yard and being hit with an ax handle. Thor White told the court that Lafoe refused to listen to discovery and refused to see the crime scene photos. [It came out during the trial that he'd not seen them until he was in court and saw them when the jury did for the first time. Think about it, if you were on trial for first degree murder and didn't do it, wouldn't you at least want to know what you were being accused of?]
Judge Ley arranged to have Dr Jill Poorman, an adult psychologist examine Lafoe immediately and he was found competent to stand trial. She stated he has a depressive disorder and takes Zoloft but he wasn’t psychotic and that there was no doubt as to his competence.
At 11:10 am jury selection started and by 11:45 we were done hearing all of the reasons people said they had a schedule conflict and couldn’t serve jury duty.
At some point we must have gone to lunch. Out of 60 people called in from the jury pool of 210, 3 had heard of the case. All said they could be impartial. At 4:00 pm the lawyers began to strike out potential jurors outside of their presence.
It seemed like a good jury. Everyone I had felt uneasy about was struck from the list.
Court was set for 9:00 with the jury set to come in at 9:30 am.