By Jena Johnson - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The perjury trial of two Lufkin counselors will have to wait another day to conclude, as the jury opted to continue deliberations Tuesday.
The Angelina County district attorney said in closing arguments that Juanda Morgan wanted to be sure a father did not get custody of his two children.
Morgan and her husband, Mark Sutton, are on trial for perjury after they testified a man involved in divorce proceedings yelled at Morgan during a conversation.
Clyde Herrington told the jurors the issues in this case are very simple. "If they did not truthfully characterize the conversation as it actually occurred then they committed aggravated perjury," Herrington said to the jury.
Herrington said that Juanda Morgan set out to make sure Mike Shelfo will not get legal custody of his kids.
"She got personally involved. She got outside the objective role," said Herrington.
In closing, Herrington said the descriptions that these Morgan and Sutton described about Shelfo were not reality and not correct.
Defense Attorney John Tunnel described to the jurors how Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas tried to convince Juanda Morgan an audio expert found nothing wrong with the tape.
"What we learned at that point was this 'expert' was Lee Miller who hadn't done anything but run a 'critical ear' test. But that was good enough for them," Tunnel said to the jury.
"The state's case is built of ceiling wax," Tunnel said to the jury. "If you turn the heat up that ceiling wax is going to melt and these cases are going to fall apart."
"If Mark Sutton committed perjury then James Gooch did too," said Al Charanza to the jury, referring to a client of Sutton who said he could hear Shelfo yelling at Morgan.
Charanza demonstrated with a tape measure how far apart Sutton's and Morgan's offices were. He said Gooch and Sutton heard Mike Shelfo from 39 feet away.
"So what I ask you to do quickly take your vote of not guilty and go home before 5 o'clock," said Charanza. "Do not let this man who's testified 27 years in court go down for felony perjury because of some disgruntled client."
But the jury would not be able to "go home before 5 o'clock" as they did not even get the case to deliberate until after 5 p.m.
The fifth and final day of the trial of two Lufkin counselors resumed with Juanda Morgan back on the stand.
"My testimony is true," said Morgan speaking of her previous testimony in question.
Morgan's attorney, John Tunnel, referred to count 2 of Morgan's indictment which quotes her as describing Mike Shelfo's behavior as "more in the rage category."
"I wouldn't have picked either of those. My answer was that he was leaning towards rage, but I thought I was given a choice: this or this," testified Morgan.
Morgan said she wasn't locked into one word. "The bottom line is his behavior was aggressive and intimidating," said Morgan.
Morgan testified a tape Shelfo produced is incomplete.
"I knew if the tape did not reflect episodes of loud intimidation then the tape was not complete," Morgan testified.
Morgan said she didn't intend to deceive anyone.
The defense rested following Morgan's testimony. The state called three witnesses to give testimony on Sutton's character.
Sue Ann Squyres, a fifth-grade teacher at Coston Elementary, who attended counseling sessions with Sutton in 1990, said "there's an absence of truthfulness in Mr. Sutton."
Vino Sohina, owner of Home Health Center in Lufkin, who was involved in a child custody hearing with Sutton 10 years ago, said, "I don't think he's very truthful, especially in the court, and he makes misleading statements."
Angela Whitley, a registered nurse at Memorial Health Systems of East Texas, said, "I personally don't trust Mr. Sutton" and "I don't think he's truthful."