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Defense files petition for new trial for Potter women in ‘Facebook Murders’ case; says new evidence could change outcome

By Angie A. Gambill

A petition was filed in Washington County, TN yesterday, July 7, 2016 by Attorney Randy Fallin on behalf of Barbara and Jenelle Potter, the mother and daughter convicted in the 2012 murders of Billy Payne, Jr. and Billie Jean Hayworth. Fallin, defense attorney for the Potter women, says that new evidence has come to light that he feels could change the outcome of the trial.

According to Fallin, the book written about the case by prosecuting attorney Dennis Brooks and published after the conclusion of the trial, contained information not made available to the defense before or during the proceedings. Fallin says the book contains previously unknown statements made by Jamie Lynn Curd, Jenelle’s boyfriend, who pleaded guilty and testified against her.

In comments to The Tomahawk on Friday morning, Fallin expressed his belief that the prosecution was obligated to provide this evidence to the defense, and that they did not do so. He says his approach to some of the witnesses would have been different had they been privy to the information at the time.

“You can’t discover new evidence, sit on it and then not use it,” said Fallin.

The petition filed on Thursday asks for a determination from the court that a new trial is warranted for the Potter women.

Fallin says that he has no time frame on how long this process could take because the judge that presided over the case, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, has since retired and current chief judge, Stacy Street, is on vacation at present.

Brooks’ book, “Too Pretty to Live, the Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee,” was released February 9 of this year and follows the case of what has become known as the Facebook murders where local residents, Billie Jean Hayworth and Billy Payne, were found murdered in their home, their infant son unharmed in his mother’s arms.

According to Brooks in a December 23, 2015 Tomahawk story about the release of the book, the idea to write it came after the verdict was rendered.

Shortly before the release of the book, Cameron Hyder, an attorney for the defense team, had asked Judge Blackwood to consider keeping Brooks from publishing his book until all appeals were exhausted in the case. Blackwood informed Hyder he was unable to rule on the request as he had no authority to stop book publication, but the request could be addressed later in the Criminal Court of Appeals. All motions brought by Hyder that day with regard to preventing Brooks from publishing his book were denied.

Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks could not be reached for comment at this writing.