DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Defense attorneys David Harrison and Andrew Scarborough are in the middle of fighting against the state’s motion to bar media access to pretrial information on the Coley McCraney case.
McCraney is the latest suspect in the double murders of Dothan teenagers Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley back in 1999. He is also being accused of raping J.B. due to the presence of his DNA on the girl’s body.
However, with the heavy media interest in the case, the prosecution has requested to limit any more coverage through sealed records and various gag orders on court participants. Their motion also bars media of all types from attending any pretrial hearing.
The state maintains that this is necessary for the case to have a viable jury pool, but according to Scarborough and Harrison, knowing about the case would not necessarily compromise potential jurors.
“The people of Dale County are good people, and I think they can administer and be impartial in their decision,” Scarborough said.
“The question that will be asked by the judge if someone raises their hand and says ‘I know something about the case’ will be this,” Harrison said. “I’m sure Judge Filmore will ask them if you can push aside what you’ve heard about the case, push aside the opinions in the news and predicate it based on just the evidence that’s in the courtroom. And if their answer’s yes, they won’t [sic] be a good jury member.”
Harrison also said the idea that the prosecution can’t get an untainted jury is a mischaracterization since a judge can always fix the influence of prior knowledge by telling them to only follow the evidence that’s been presented.
Scarborough pointed out that the information shared outside the court proceedings has come from the prosecution, not the defense.
“(The state) wants to put out (its) information and shut down everything else, and I think that’s wrong,” he said.
“The premise of democracy is transparency,” Harrison said. “I think that if these proceedings are sealed and gagged, it will absolutely be a miscarriage of justice because right now the people in this area want to know the truth.
“Every day I go to church, every day I go to the shopping center, someone says all we want is the truth. Well, we’re going to bring the truth. We want the truth. That’s what we want to do, and then maybe, J.B. and Tracie’s family can have some closure.
According to the attorneys, McCraney is planning to attend all meetings.
“He hates that this family, these family has gone through this, Tracie and J.B.’s family,” Harrison said. “He hates that his family is suffering as well, but Coley McCraney steadfastly stands on the fact that he is innocent, and he is looking forward to his date in trial.”
The defense and prosecution will make their case concerning controlling publicity on July 12.
Watch the full television interview in the video below.