Emotions ran high Tuesday as nine eyewitnesses were called to the stand in the motion status hearing of accused murderer Laney Barnes.
The witnesses recalled what they could of the incident which occurred at a local McDonald's in May 2006. Barnes is accused of running over and killing 2-year-old Avery King with his car and severely injuring mother Anita King, aunt Stephanie Casola, 5-year old cousin Jacob Casola and 4-year-old cousin Isaac Casola.
Barnes' defense has filed several motions attempting to strike testimony given by witnesses due to inconsistencies in their testimony.
A majority of the witnesses called confirmed earlier reports that Barnes allegedly smiled, smirked or laughed during the murder. John Barfield witnessed most of the incident.
"When I first saw him, there was surprisingly no emotion," Barfield said. "Later on, when the car came at me, I could see a smile on his face."
Barfield said Barnes smirked as he allegedly ran over the children for the second time. He described Barnes' expression as that of a smart-aleck.
Barnes was identified in court by seven of the nine witnesses who appeared on Tuesday.
"That's a face I'll never forget," Barfield said.
Several witnesses became visibly upset while on the stand and said the experience haunted them.
"I'll never forget," said Anthony Hawk, a witness. "I try to put it in the back of my head, but it won't stay."
Solomon Willis echoed Hawk's sentiments.
"It's something I can't forget," Willis said. "It's something I dreamed about afterwards. I can't get it out of my head."
Willis indicated he had nightmares about the murder every night for several months after it occurred.
After a few of the witnesses' accounts, Paul Casola, the uncle of the murdered girl, became noticeably troubled and had to leave the court room. His wife Stephanie Casola, who is expected to testify today, sat outside the court room with other witnesses.
Judge Gene Benton also heard testimony concerning how the grand jury is selected in Newton County and what impact the influx of Latinos might have on the system's legitimacy. The grand jury is selected based on age, race and sex percentages in the county according to the 2000 US Census. In that census, race is defined as white, black or other.
Stephanie Bohan, an expert in Latino demography, said the Latino population has grown 134 percent in the county between 2000 and the time the grand jury that heard Barnes' case was chosen. Georgia law does not currently recognize Latinos as a cognizable group.
The motions concerning the both issues of the eyewitnesses and the grand jury will continue in hearings today and Thursday. Hearings were scheduled for Friday as well, but a conflict in defense attorney Chris Adams' schedule and a doctor's appointment for Barnes have forced the judge to postpone the proceedings.
Barnes' medical appointment was originally scheduled for today, but Benton decided to have it moved to Friday after the doctor said the visit was important, but could wait. The suspect has leukemia.
Motions concerning the mental health of Barnes are also expected to be discussed in today's hearing.