ATLANTA - Sunday will mark five months since jury selection began in the Young Slime Life gang and racketeering trial, but so far there is still not a single juror seated.
For those watching from the outside, like lawyer Tom Church, what is happening in the courtroom is head scratching.
"It’s descending into chaos, and every day seems to bring a new level of disorder," he said.
Since court proceedings started in January, there have been several disruptions. Just this week there have been two.
On Wednesday, Fulton County deputies seized the laptop of defense attorney Eric Johnson who represents Christian Eppinger. The arrest warrant alleged Eppinger used the laptop in court to communicate with other YSL members who are not in custody. Then on Friday, Fulton County sheriff’s deputy Akeiba Stanley was arrested for allegedly using a phone to communicate with Eppinger both in and out of the courtroom. The sheriff’s office says she also visited his cell and attempted to smuggle things into the jail for him.
"Clearly, there’s been a breakdown here," Church said. "We have attorneys getting arrested during these proceedings, having their computers seized. We have the judge who’s holding lawyers left and right in contempt."
Besides the disruptions, Emory University law professor Lynsey Barron says complicating the case is finding a jury that can devote the time needed to serve since the trial could last months. She says trying each defendant separately could solve a lot of the issues because the case is having an impact beyond just that one courtroom.
"It’s not just slowing things down in Fulton County, it is slowing things down across the state because these lawyers can’t focus on the other cases that they have," she said.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat released this statement:
"Her reckless actions endangered the safety of citizens, staff and employees at the Fulton County Courthouse and put other inmates in jeopardy. To violate your sworn oath in such a brazen way that directly puts the life and safety of others at risk is unconscionable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are all responsible for our actions. If you break the law, you will be held accountable. The actions of this one individual are certainly not a reflection of the men and women of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office who show up to work each and every day and conduct their duties with professionalism, honor and integrity."
Jury selection for the YSL trial is expected to continue next week.