By Jena Johnson - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Two Lufkin counselors on trial this week for perjury, took the stand Friday.
Mark Sutton and his wife, Juanda Morgan, are accused of lying under oath in a child custody hearing. Morgan testified Mike Shelfo yelled at her during a meeting between them and Sutton testified he also heard the outburst from another room in the building. Charges were brought against the couple after Shelfo produced a recording of the meeting which contradicted the testimony.
Sutton's attorney, Albert Charanza asked Sutton to explain to the jury what happened on Feb. 27, 2008.
"We heard a really loud male voice," Sutton testified.
He testified he realized the noise was coming from his wife's office, which is only feet away from his office.
"I merely stood by the door to see if anything was going escalate," Sutton said. "He became rather loud, belligerent, berating, scolding. I couldn't hear my wife at all."
Sutton testified he heard Shelfo scolding his wife for not telling him there were problems.
Sutton said he thought he was being asked to give his opinion at the April 2008 hearing.
In previous testimony at that hearing, Sutton said Shelfo was more in the "rage" category.
"They were trying to pin me down to a certain word," Sutton said.
Morgan said she changed her opinion of the children she was counseling in Nov. 2007 in therapy after one of the children showed violent behavior. She also said the recording Shelfo produced was incomplete.
"There are definitely things missing, yes," she said.
"Did he raise his voice," her attorney, John Tunnel, asked.
"Oh yes, absolutely," Morgan said.
James Gooch, who was counseled by Sutton, was the defense's first witness, who testified he was in a session with Sutton at about the same time Shelfo and Morgan were in their meeting.
"I heard a short, masculine outburst," Gooch testified.
Gooch testified at that point Sutton asked to be excused for a moment while he checked on the noise.
"At the end of the session I inquired to Sutton if he wanted me to stay because I was concerned about everyone's safety," Gooch said.
Forensic audiologist T. Peirce Baker of Houston pointed out several "obvious breaks" in the tape.
"It shows there was some space skipped," Baker testified.
Charanza question if those breaks represent a potential edit in the tape.
"I would have to say it's bigger than potential," Baker said.
Baker testified he heard more than 40 breaks in the tape.
"This is the most breaks I've ever had in a recording," Baker said.
Charanza asked if Baker believes the tape has been edited.
"Yes, yes it has," Baker testified.
Baker said Lee Miller's report of the tape is inaccurate.
He explained there is no way to know precisely how long the breaks are. In previous testimony, Miller said the longest break was four seconds.
District Attorney Clyde Herrington questioned if the 40-plus breaks Baker documented changed the context of the recorded conversation.
Baker testified he was not asked to examine the content of the conversation.
Herrington asked if Baker could point out any place on the tape where it changes topic or doesn't make sense.
"Yes," Baker testified. "But I didn't keep a tally of the topics."
Herrington argued that although there may be breaks in the tape, they do not change the content or context of the recorded conversation.
Shelfo's ex-wife, Korby Clarke, also testified for the defense.
"I believe that he has a tendency to be very untruthful at times," she said.
In an opening statement, Sutton's attorney, Albert Charanza, told the jury evidence will show Shelfo is a liar. Charanza said jurors will hear evidence that Shelfo is aggressive and intimidating towards women. He said the jurors will find the tape has been edited and more importantly they're going to hear the significant breaks in the tape.