Witnesses recount events in Boswell trial
By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Feb. 22, 2001
Spectators at the second day of the trial of Ray Boswell had expected to hear testimony from Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson about her negative feelings toward the District 5 supervisor.
Instead, jurors were instructed by presiding Circuit Judge Robert L. Goza to accept three facts; 1) that Donna Jill Johnson does not like Boswell; 2) that she supported then-incumbent Jerry Creel in his November election against Boswell; and 3) that she never expressed her negative feelings about Boswell to voters.
Boswell is accused of delivering the false voter registration forms of six people who live outside his district and of attempting to falsely register two others during his November 1999 election.
The trial began Tuesday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court with jury selection and resumed on Wednesday with opening statements and testimony from state witnesses.
Attorney Lee Martin, head of Attorney General Mike Moore's Public Integrity Division, said in his opening statement that testimony would reveal Boswell manipulated six people into using false addresses on their voter registration forms and that he went so far as to instruct one voter to lie if she were asked about her address.
Defense Attorney Robert Jones told jurors prosecutors would weave a "scenario of deception," in which Boswell would be held accountable for the people who provided false information on their voter registration forms. Jones also said Boswell and the other candidates were encouraged by Johnson's office to register voters in all districts and that Johnson told people Boswell is a "scoundrel" whom she did not want in office.
The first witness to be called was 19-year-old Lisa Nicole Swanner, who testified her brother, Patrick, filled out a voter registration form in her name, used a false address and forged her name on the application. Swanner said she later submitted a correct voter registration application through her school.
The state then called Elizabeth Scruggs, who said she met Boswell while on her job as a cashier for Scott's Amoco in Russell. Scruggs testified Boswell spoke of her family members and of her husband's grandmother, Lois Scruggs, who lived across the street from her. She said she agreed to falsify her address, which moved her from District 2 to Boswell's District 5, because she trusted Boswell, a "high society" figure and because she wanted to "help him out."
She said she couldn't remember if she read a statement on the application outlining up to a $5,000 fine and five years imprisonment for anyone knowingly providing false information on a voter registration form. Scruggs also testified she did not know Barbara Clark, who signed her name as a witness on her registration application. Clark is a former election commissioner for District 5.
Angela Collis testified she also used Lois Scruggs' Murphy Road address on her application, but had done so at least twice before, once to avoid a garbage fee. She said Boswell did not prompt her to use the false address.
Johnson also gave testimony regarding the attempted registration of Paul and Kimberly Stapleton, whose voter registration forms she said provided erroneous addresses and a handwriting strikingly similar to that of Boswell.
The trial continued today.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.