Circuit Court Judge Malcolm Street dismissed the jury at 4:30 p.m. Thursday after its members had deliberated for about four hours. The jurors will return at 8:30 a.m. today (Friday) to continue their work.
The twelve jurors began hearing arguments in the case Monday afternoon, when Bearden took the stand. They finished hearing the case at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday after attorneys offered closing statements and the judge instructed the jurors.
“You will be the sole and exclusive judges of the facts,” Street said. “You can elect to consider that testimony that you consider to be worthy of belief.”
The judge told the jury the case hinges on the issue of Bearden’s legal residence, which is termed domicile. A domicile, the judge said, is the place a person “intends to return to after a temporary absence.”
The term is especially relevant to Bearden’s case because his domicile has been disputed. Some say the mayor lives outside the city limits in a farm home, but he maintains that his primary residence, or domicile, is at a ranch-style home in Weaver.
A family, couple or person can have several residences, but only one domicile, according to the law.
The law also states that a mayor must reside in the city he governs. If the jury decides Bearden’s domicile is in Anniston, his position as mayor will be in jeopardy.
Bearden said on the witness stand that his Anniston residence, a farm home built in 2006, is about three times as large as his Weaver home. That residence, a ranch home, was purchased by Bearden in 1977.
There, he and his wife, Janet Bearden, raised a family. In late 2006 or early 2007 the couple moved to their Anniston home, which is less than a quarter-mile outside of Weaver’s city limits. Both Bearden and his wife said on the witness stand that they moved back to the Weaver home about a year ago.
The law states that mayors in Alabama must live in the city limits of the municipalities they govern for the duration of their terms in office.
In closing arguments early Thursday, Shaun Quinlan, the attorney for plaintiff and Weaver City Council member Michael Warren, told the jurors they should consider the evidence in the case. In the closing statements he reminded the jurors more than two dozen of Bearden’s personal documents listed 6511 Weaver Road in Anniston as his home.
Those documents include pistol permits, campaign finance reports and a traffic ticket. On some of the official documents Bearden swore to the state that the information was accurate.
Bearden’s attorney, Gene Rutledge, said in closing arguments that the court case is an attack from people Bearden considers political opponents.
“I have had the odor of the sweet smell of politics in this room since the beginning of this trial. There are mysteries here. Sweet political mysteries,” Rutledge said.
Bearden, Rutledge said, was able to achieve the American dream. After three decades of raising his family in the modest ranch home in Weaver he was able to build a large farm home. Now, he said, Bearden’s political opponents are trying to undo that success.
Quinlan said the trial is not an attempt to undo Bearden’s success but to reveal truth through evidence.
“Mr. Bearden is the model of the American Dream. I’ll give him that. Why would you live in a house that’s probably not much bigger than double wide trailer?” Quinlan said.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544/i>