Witnesses sequestered in trial of Jerry Manigault

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - It's been three years since the body of Polly Ann Mitchell was found inside her Bluffton home.

The suspect, Jerry Manigault -a registered sex offender - was charged with the murder of a Charleston County woman just months before he was accused in the death of Mitchell.

He appeared in court Monday for the first time. After jury selection, both the prosecution and defense teams took about an hour to go over their cases with the judge including reviewing rap sheets for witnesses and presenting several pre-trial motions. Which included sequestering witnesses and jurors, dismissing a set of photos from evidence and even trying to suppress the suspect's previous crimes including the murder of Julia Mudgett, that Charleston County woman.

According to the prosecution, Manigault is accused of killing her, stealing her car then traveling to Bluffton where he is accused of robbing and killing Mitchell

Manigault was served a warrant just hours after Mitchell's death for failing to register as a sex offender. Just two hours later, Mitchell's body would be discovered and items missing from her home found in Manigault's possession.

The prosecution's pre-trial motion included allowing autopsy photos of Mitchell's body to be reviewed by the jurors. While the defense worried that technology may deem their client guilty before testimony starts.

"We believe in an effort to reduce the likelihood that they are going to be contaminated by information outside of this classroom, we ask that the jury be sequestered in this place and they be placed in town with no access, whatsoever, to those devices," said Beaufort County Public Defender Trasi Campbell.

The judge denied the defense's motion to sequester the jurors but did agree to sequester the witnesses in this case.

When it comes to the autopsy photos, the judge said he will review them and approve them on an as-needed basis as testimonies are delivered.

Opening statements will begin Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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