Marlow trial begins with jury selection
by Joshua Sharpe
April 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 3678 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow, Attorney Anthony Morgese, GOP Secretary Barbara Knowles and Marlow's political advisor Robert Trim stand during court proceedings on Tuesday while Cherokee County Judge Ellen McElyea calls for a panel of potential jurors in the case against Knowles, Marlow and Trim on charges of making false statements.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
From left, Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow, Attorney Anthony Morgese, GOP Secretary Barbara Knowles and Marlow's political advisor Robert Trim stand during court proceedings on Tuesday while Cherokee County Judge Ellen McElyea calls for a panel of potential jurors in the case against Knowles, Marlow and Trim on charges of making false statements.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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CANTON — With a mass of pre-trial publicity and the well-known parties involved, the first two days of the trial involving Cherokee School Board member Kelly Marlow and two of her associates dragged on as attorneys struggled to find a jury.

The trial for Marlow, her political adviser, Robert Trim, and Cherokee GOP Secretary, Barbara Knowles, began Monday morning and, after the laborious jury selection process extended into Tuesday night, is expected to last the rest of week.

Previously, the entire trial had been estimated to last two or three days.

Attorneys on both sides of the high-profile case pointed to the wealth of public interest since July 2013, when authorities charged the trio with falsely accusing the county schools superintendent, Dr. Frank Petruzielo, of trying to hit them with his car.

“I never thought we’d spend a day and a half, potentially more,” Marlow’s attorney, Brian Steel, said as the process of finding the jury crept along.

Marlow, Trim and Knowles, who have pleaded not guilty, seemed in relatively good spirits as complication after complication arose with the potential jurors.

More than a few of those considered for the 12-member panel told the court they had heard of the defendants’ accusations against Petruzielo, which came after a heated school board meeting June 13, 2013.

Still, others said they had heard of other controversies involving Marlow since she took her seat on the school board in January 2013, such as her letter to AdvancEd, the agency in charge of school accreditation, asking for an investigation of the board.

One woman in the pool said she had been upset when she heard the news of the letter, as she worried it could affect her children who go to school in the district. She said her opinion of Marlow had been sullied by the scandal. But she added she could be “100 percent” objective and put her emotions aside.

Steel asked Superior Court Judge Ellen McElyea to excuse the woman, which the judge declined because of the woman’s statements that she could be objective.

Some potential jurors had to answer to their alleged involvement with SCRAM!, a group formed on Facebook in mid-2013 to stand against Marlow and oust her from the school board.

One woman, who said had she wasn’t very aware of Marlow, was shown screenshots from her Facebook page showing she had visited the site.

The potential juror said she only looked at the page a few times after a former neighbor suggested it.

“The only thing I remember were rallies with yellow T-shirts,” the woman said of pictures she saw on SCRAM!’s site, last year when the group held events protesting Marlow. The group wore yellow shirts with its logo during those events.

The woman also said she was a supporter of John Harmon, who is running for the school board and is seen as SCRAM!’s preferred candidate.

Even still, she said she had little knowledge of the case and felt she could be objective.

A special education teacher in the school district was also shown screenshots from his Facebook page after expressing he had next to no knowledge or interest in the case.

“I hit ‘like’ on Facebook,” the man explained, adding he only looked at the page a few times and just remembered seeing information about Marlow’s regular inquiries into an audit of the school district. “Just curiosity,” he added.

Though he believed in the defendants’ right to a fair trial, the man was candid he would feel “uncomfortable” on the jury, as the superintendent is his boss and is expected to testify. The potential juror is also friendly with another of the potential witnesses in the case, Bill Sebring, an assistant superintendent in the Cherokee School District. Still, the man said he believed he could be objective.

As deadline approached Tuesday night, it wasn’t clear exactly who would sit on the jury. The judge said she planned to have it in place by the end of the night, and court was to resume at 9 a.m. today.

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