Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill
Former Clayton County jailer Beatrice Powell
JONESBORO, Ga. -- Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen Thursday morning for the racketeering trial of Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.
But before they were sworn in, both sides accused each other of using race in their choices.
FULL COVERAGE | Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill
The defense accused prosecutors of striking too many African Americans, and prosecutors accused the defense of striking too many whites in their jury choices.
Clayton County Judge Albert Collier overruled both objections, and allowed the jury to remain as chosen. Their make up is nine black men, three black women, one white male and one Asian male.
None of the jurors knows which of them are alternates in order to ensure that all of them pay attention to the proceedings.
While race may have played a role in jury selection, politics came up in opening statements.
One of his defense lawyers told the jury Hill is a victim of a political vendetta, of being targeted by former Sheriff Kem Kimbrough who defeated him in 2008 and then lost to him when Hill made a comeback last year.
Attorney Steven Frey said the investigation of Hill was also fueled by hatred from some of the 27 deputies he fired his first day in office in 2005, but who were later reinstated.
"Hill's guilty of one thing, wanting his job back; that's it," Frey told the jury.
But special prosecutor Layla Zon said it's not about whether Hill was a good sheriff, whether he cracked down on crime or whether he made political enemies.
She said it's about his abuse of county vehicles and a county credit card to take personal trips, including to gambling casinos, sometimes with female employees who were supposed to be on official leave.
"It's simple; the defendant, Victor Hill, the evidence is going to show, is a thief," Zon said.
Late Thursday prosecutors called former jail employee Beatrice Hill to the witness stand.
She admitted taking several out of town pleasure trips with Hill after he lost the 2008 summer primary election and wanted to get out of town because he was depressed.
Powell said Hill drove a county sheriff vehicle and paid most of the expenses.
Although she was granted immunity for her trial testimony, Powell still faces several perjury counts for telling an investigative grand jury that she never went on the trips.
Fighting back tears, Powell said she was confused and afraid during her earlier testimony.
"The things that they were saying to me, I just really felt like I just didn't want to answer no more of their questions, so I shut down, I locked down," she said.
Prosecutors will continue presenting witnesses Friday for what Judge Collier has indicated could be a two or three week trial.