The trial for a Clayton County woman accused of orchestrating her own mother’s murder came to an abrupt halt before it could start because her lawyer’s actions.
Kajul “Beauty” Harvey will have to wait to face a jury.
Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew O. Simmons on Tuesday declared a mistrial after public defender Lloyd Matthews told the jury prohibited information during his opening statement.
“You just told the jury, ‘my client’s been cooperative and gave a lengthy interview to the police,’ after I told you not to mention the interview yesterday,” Simmons scolded Matthews.
The interview was to be withheld from the jury because prosecutors argued – Simmons agreed – that Harvey’s statements to police were made solely to keep from getting charged in connection with the death of her mother, Alena Marble.
Harvey was indicted with her boyfriend Latoris Grovner for the Marble’s 2011.
Despite admitting to police that he beat Marble with his fist, then a vodka bottle, then a saucepan before wrapping her up in blankets and leaving her in the trunk of a car on a 90-degree day – all as part of a plan to, as he told police “get her out of the way” – a jury found Grovner guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors doubled down the charges against Harvey.
The original indictment charged Harvey and Grovner with murder, four counts of felony murder – killing a person during the commission of a felony – multiple counts of aggravated assault and aggravated battery, and evidence tampering and concealing a death.
The new indictment has 23 counts and adds felony charges of kidnapping, burglary, false imprisonment, robbery, and financial transaction card theft to the beating charges, and an accusation of felony murder for each new charge.
According to prosecutors, Grovner and Harvey felt Marble opposed their relationship after Grovner was arrested for attacking Harvey. And they planned to go after Marble’s money after she was dispatched, prosecutors alleged.
Grovner even told police during an interview recorded and replayed during his trial that he believed Marble forced Harvey to abort a pregnancy two years prior to the June 3, 2011, killing.
In addition to murder, the second indictment charges Harvey as well as a now-imprisoned Grovner with 10 counts of felony murder – causing someone’s death during the commission of a felony – five counts of aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, bank card theft and evidence tampering.
Tuesday, assistant Clayton County district attorney Dea Warren reiterated the claim from Grovner’s trial.
“Beauty, along with her co-defendant, wanted Ms. Marble out of the way,” Warren said.
Matthews called the charges against Harvey a “rush to judgement,” arguing that some important details about the case were overlooked.
“The homicide is a culmination of a struggle (between Marble and Grovner) for control of Kajul Harvey,” he said. “My client did not participate in the killing of the deceased. The state’s case … well, it’s trumped up.”
But as Matthews wrapped up his opening statement, he ventured into forbidden territory.
“My client, upon being interviewed by the police was very cooperative,” he said. “She submitted herself to a several-hours interview.”
Deputy chief assistant district attorney Katheryn Powers objected, and the judge cleared the jurors from the courtroom.
“This is not the first time we’ve had self-serving hearsay motion in this courtroom,” Powers complained to the judge.
Matthews defended his actions
“As far as my conduct being in direct contravention of the court’s pretrial motion, I thought I was precluded from going into the content (of the interview),”he said.
Calling Matthews’ statement a “bell that could not be un-rung,” however, Simmons chided the defense attorney, and released the jurors from their collective duty.
“Now the jury’s heard that there is a statement,” Simmons said to attorneys after the jurors were gone. “Even if the jury hears the defendant testify, there’s no guarantee that that statement comes in. The jury is going to wonder, ‘if she made a statement to the police, why haven’t we heard it?’ The natural inclination of the jury is to say, ‘well, the police must have done something wrong.’”
Harvey was returned to the Clayton County jail where she will remain without bond.
The trial will be rescheduled for an as yet undetermined date.