Jury won't hear some evidence in Hayes trial

Grant Hayes
September 3, 2013 2:45:35 PM PDT
The judge in the trial of Grant Hayes ruled Tuesday that Laura Ackerson's brother cannot testify she was afraid to leave Hayes in 2009 because she said he had threatened her.

Hayes - aka Grant Haze - is charged - along with his current wife Amanda - with killing Ackerson in July 2011 during a long-running custody dispute over the two children they had together. Prosecutors say Grant and Amanda cut up Ackerson's body, put it in coolers, and then drove them in a U-Haul to Amanda Hayes' sister's house in Richmond, Texas, where the body parts were dumped in a nearby creek.

Ackerson had lost custody of her children to Hayes and Amanda, who also had a newborn baby with Hayes. Ackerson was fighting in court to get her kids back when she was killed.

Ackerson's brother Jason testified outside the presence of the jury Tuesday after Hayes' defense objected to what he was about to say. Jason Ackerson said he and his sister had discussed her leaving Grant in 2009 and her coming to live with him. Jason said his sister told him Grant had threatened to harm her and anyone who helped her if she left, and he ultimately decided it would not be safe for his own family if Laura came to stay with him.

Judge Donald Stephenson ruled that because Jason didn't hear the threat personally, he couldn't testify about it in front of the jury.

Also in court Tuesday, Judge Stephenson asked court observers who might be affiliated with either the defendant or Ackerson not to get into courthouse elevators with jurors after a juror said they were uncomfortable being in an elevator with someone with an interest in the case.

The trial picked up Tuesday after the long holiday weekend. A close friend of Laura testified Friday that Grant Hayes left her with a bloody nose and black eye during a fight when she was pregnant with his first child.

Heidi Schumacher told jurors she was on the phone with Ackerson in 2008 and could hear Hayes yelling at Ackerson. She said when she rushed over to check on her friend, Hayes was driving off and Ackerson had obvious injuries. Schumacher said Ackerson told her Hayes hit her, but she didn't plan to press charges.

"I walked up to the door and Laura opened it, crying and bleeding. Her nose was bleeding and her eye was red like it was going to be black. She said it's OK, it's OK, I'm not going to press any charges, it's OK," said Schumacher.

Schumacher told jurors that about a year after the bloody nose incident, Hayes threatened her and Ackerman, saying not to mess him because he was powerful, had friends, and could kill them. Schumacher said after that she bought a gun, got a conceal/carry permit and gave Ackerson a knife for self-protection.

In his opening statement, Hayes' attorney William Durham said Hayes didn't kill Ackerson. He told jurors Amanda Hayes killed her in a fight and that Grant is only guilty of trying to cover up the death.

Hayes and his wife are being tried separately. A jury of eight women and four men is hearing the case. Attorneys have also chosen four alternates. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Hayes faces life in prison if convicted. Amanda Hayes is expected to go on trial next year.

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