GRIFFIN, Ga. -- The judge in the Spalding County cold case murder trial sent to jail a witness who was supposed to be sequestered Wednesday morning after discovering she was actually watching a live stream of the trial's opening statements.
After opening statements were completed, Judge Fletcher Sams immediately asked the jury to step out of the courtroom. Defendant Frankie Gebhardt remained in the courtroom.
Then he asked the bailiff to bring in a sequestered witness, Brandy Abercrombie. When she made it to the podium, Sams said the bailiff had informed him that she was watching the online video stream of the trial's opening statements.
Abercrombie is the daughter of Bill Moore, Sr. Along with Gebhardt, Moore has been charged with the 1983 murder of Timothy Coggins. Moore is being tried separately from Gebhardt.
After explaining to her that sequestration meant that she was not supposed to know what was going on inside the courtroom, he asked her if there was any reason that he should not hold her in contempt of court.
"Ms. Abercrombie, I am going to find you are in contempt of court for violating the rule of sequestration," Sams said. "Ma'am, I'm going to order you in the county jail for 20 days. I will reconsider this after your testimony is complete."
Sams reiterated that the witnesses were sequestered in order to prevent their testimony from being influenced by anyone else's comments and that this is to guard the integrity of the case.
"I have to guard the integrity of this case. I have to guard the integrity of the witnesses' testimony," Sams said. "The reason for sequestration is so that you're not affected by what anybody might say about this case. And by listening to this case, you've opened yourself up to increased impeachment at this time, and I want to ask counsel from both sides to re-explain to all of their witnesses the rule of sequestration and how important it is."
Abercrombie was taken into custody by court bailiffs at that point.