A prosecutor on Monday accused defense attorneys of hiring a private investigator who allegedly threatened a witness in the case of three Anniston men, charged in the shooting death of a teenager in 2011.
In a pretrial hearing Monday, Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones said the matter was not for the court to address, unless the district attorney’s office believes a crime was committed and decides to press charges. The trial is set to begin early next month.
The defense attorneys denied the accusation.
Calhoun County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hammond told the court that a private investigator interviewed a witness in the case. She said she believes one of the attorneys representing the three defendants hired the investigator. Hammond alleged that the investigator made some sort of threat of litigation against the witness while speaking with her.
She referred to the investigator in court as “Bishop Lattimore.” A website for International Fact Finding Consultants, with offices in Birmingham and Decatur, Ga., lists as its founder E.E. Lattimore, who holds the title bishop in a religious organization.
“I am worried about witnesses feeling threatened and, or intimidated,” Hammond told the court.
Milton Curry, 24, Jodeci Sanders, 22, and Nebrasker Burnhart, 23, were arrested in August 2011, charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Oliver Jackson on Aug. 12, 2011.
Prosecutors allege that the three defendants were all in the same car when they pulled up to Jackson, who was standing outside of Norwood Homes. One of the men in the car shot Jackson in the chest, prosecutors allege.
Bill Broome, Sanders’ attorney, said he did not hire Lattimore. Burnhart’s attorney, Raymond Johnson also said he did not hire the investigator. Victor Kelley, Curry’s attorney, said he hired another investigator, Dan Herrin, to work on Curry’s case.
An answering machine at Lattimore’s office stated the business would be closed until Aug. 25.
Speaking of Hammond’s concerns, Jones said “I leave that in the full discretion of the district attorney to prosecute. It is not a matter for this court.”
Curry was released from jail on bond Jan. 4, 2012, and was in court for Monday’s hearing.
Burnhart was released on bond on June 15, 2012. He was rearrested on Nov. 11, 2012, for allegedly breaking the terms of his bond, court records show. Burnhart was being held at the Calhoun County Jail on Monday and was not in court.
Sanders also was being held at the jail on Monday. He has been held without bond since his initial arrest in 2011. He was also not in court Monday.
All three men are charged with capital murder; state law allows such a charge if someone is killed through the use of a weapon fired from a vehicle.
Police and prosecutors have not said which of the three men they believe shot Jackson. Anniston police Capt. Allen George directed questions about the case to the district attorney's office. When asked who prosecutors believe shot Jackson, Hammond declined to comment, citing the upcoming trial.
Jury selection is set for Sept. 4. The consolidated trial for the three defendants is scheduled to begin Sept. 8 at 8:30 a.m.