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Opening statements begin Thursday morning in Christopher Henderson trial

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 8:52 AM CDT
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UPDATE as of 11:20 am: Once the jurors were sworn in, opening statements began. The prosecution started off walking jurors through the case. Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett gave the opening for the prosecution.

In her opening, she talked about the witnesses the team planned to call to the stand. She talked about an investigator who would talk about the devastation on the scene. She asked jurors to not only find Henderson guilty in the case but to take it to the next step.

Bruce Gardner gave the opening for the defense team. Gardner said he agrees the scene was horrific, but he alleges the events were planned and executed by Rhonda Carlson, the co-defendant.

Gardner talked about a deal the district attorney’s office made with Carlson. That deal is that if Carlson testifies truthfully in the Henderson case, that they will take the death penalty off the table for her.

“Rhonda Carlson, this shadow in the mist you haven’t met yet. The person who planned it, the one who executed it, and the one with the motivation to do it,” Gardner said. “They made a deal with the devil. That is Ronda Carlson,” said Gardner in opening statements.

The first witness called to the stand by the prosecution was a deputy who responded to the scene. The deputy talked about how when he drove up to the house black smoke was everywhere. You see in body camera footage as he interacts with a woman who claims her baby and nephew are in the house. This woman is clearly distraught. The body camera footage shows flames engulfing the house and the deputy trying to break the windows to help the people he believes could be trapped inside.

There was a setback before the jurors were sworn in. One of the jurors was excused and replaced with an alternate.

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Opening statements are expected to start Thursday morning in the Christopher Henderson case. Henderson is accused of murdering his pregnant wife and her family in Madison County in August of 2015.

The District Attorney’s Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann told WAFF 48 the jury striking process was completed late Wednesday. He said the now official jury will be sworn in Thursday morning.

Both sets of attorneys report they’re ready for the case to begin. Henderson is accused of working together with his wife named Rhonda Carlson to murder his other pregnant wife Kristen, her mom, her nephew, and her son. Henderson is facing the death penalty in this case.

There are 12 jurors and six alternates in this case. During the jury selection process, Judge Chris Comer told potential jurors there would be more alternates in this case than normal. The reason why he said this was because of COVID-19 and the fact that this trial is set to be lengthier than some.

According to WAFF’s Tiffany Thompson, one juror was dismissed on Thursday.

The Chief Trial Attorney for the District Attorney’s office Tim Gann said the details of this case will be especially hard for the jury to sit through, and that’s another reason he said there are so many alternates. When asked if there was a concern if halfway through the case a juror may say they can’t sit through the case anymore, Gann said yes.

“It is a concern and I have addressed it with every pool. It will be difficult to sit on this case,” Gann said. “We don’t want people to get halfway through and just say I can’t take it anymore, but we realize that is a very real possibility, and that’s why we have so many alternate jurors.”

Gann said the details, in this case, are something he’s never seen before.

“I’ve been around for at least 30 years in law enforcement and here, and this is the worst thing I’d seen by far,” Gann said.

During the jury selection process, Gann warned the jury pool about what they might see or hear in this case. Gann told the jury pool that the potential jurors would see very disturbing pictures in this case if they were selected to serve.

“There’s no way that you can prepare for what you are going to see,” he said. “There is just no way with the evidence in this case. We do this all the time. We have been doing this a long time and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Others said Henderson has the right like everyone else to be presumed innocent unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Henderson’s defense attorney Bruce Garder said everyone has the right to a speedy and public trial with the help of legal counsel.

During the jury selection process he also asked potential jurors if they could make their verdict just on what’s presented in the case alone. Gardner reports this case is a long time coming.

“We are pretty excited about getting through this. Robin and I have lived with this case since September of 2015 and we are finally getting there,” Gardner said. “I think our client is finally ready to get there.”

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