THOMASVILLE — The defense called its final two witnesses Friday in the federal trial against Cairo businessman W. Dexter Harrison, Grady County farmer Martin “Marty” L. Harrell and his father and fellow farmer Charles Ladon “Don” Harrell.

Don Harrell is charged with witness tampering; Harrison and Marty Harrell are charged with conspiracy to commit arson on a commercial structure and mail fraud (specifically to collect insurance proceeds from a fire), actual act of committing mail fraud, and, actual act of committing arson (Ramada Limited motel in Donalsonville); Marty Harrell is charged with three separate counts of witness tampering, and making misleading statements to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and, the additional charge on Harrison is misleading statements to an insurance company with respect to a federal offense.

Don Harrell’s attorney, Phil Cannon, asked that he be allowed to play taped conversations between Marty Harrell and his wife, Julie, that occurred on July 31, 2005, the day Julie went to visit her father-in-law, Don, and when the charge of witness tampering allegedly occurred.

He said the tapes held words between the couple about Don Harrell and would verify that Julie was not afraid of her father-in-law. He also said the tapes would prove the heated conversation between Julie and Don Harrell occurred on that date (previously debated between the defense and prosecution).

Judge Hugh Lawson ruled those tapes were not to be played in court. However, he did allow both the tapes and the transcripts into evidence for the jury.

A surprise witness, Georgia State Trooper John Jackson, testified to being contacted Thursday evening about comments Dennis Weaver made in his testimony that day. Jackson said he then contacted Marty Harrell’s attorney, Eddie Meeks, to set the record straight.

Meeks asked Jackson if he had ever received any phone calls from Weaver about knowing information pertaining to an arson fire or if he had been contacted by Weaver about his knowing who started the fire after the Ramada Limited burned on Jan. 7, 2002.

Jackson said no and, if Weaver had, that he would have been obligated to report it and would have immediately contacted his supervising officer.

Leah McEwen, U.S. Assistant Attorney, called Jackson back to the stand Friday afternoon as its only rebuttal evidence.

He restated that he had not received any phone calls from Weaver about an arson or knowing who was involved. However, he did say Weaver had once vaguely mentioned in direct conversation about being in “the wrong place at the wrong time” but did not go into the details.

Then, Harrison took the stand in his defense.

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