Wilcox County could be potential location of S-Town trial
Jul. 15, 2017
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — In its first month after being released, the podcast "S-Town" was downloaded more than 40 million times across the country and world.
Because of the popularity of the podcast, attorneys in Bibb County are asking a judge to have a trial connected to the show moved elsewhere.
On Monday, attorneys for Tyler Goodson filed a motion to have his trial on theft, burglary and other charges moved outside of Bibb County, where the town of Woodstock is prominently featured as the home of John B. McLemore, the central figure of the show.
Throughout the show, McLemore's life and friends are profiled through Woodstock. McLemore died in 2015. Goodson, 26, was a friend of McLemore's that was featured on "S-Town" and worked for him a number of years.
The podcast was released March 28 and has received praise for its storytelling and compelling figures.
"Given its popularity, 'S-Town' is well-known by the citizens of Bibb County," the motion stated. "As a direct result of S-Town's popularity throughout the community, the likelihood of obtaining a fair and impartial trial and unbiased verdict (in this case) cannot be reasonably expected in the county in which the defendant is to be tried."
In the motion, Goodson's attorneys, J.D. Terry and Cedrick Coleman, suggested holding the trial in a rural county like Wilcox County, which is in the Fourth Judicial Circuit and, in their argument, "likely free from the influence of podcasts generally."
Backing up their argument to hold the trial in Wilcox County, Terry and Coleman cited a study published in 2016 by Edison Research called "The Podcast Consumer." The report stated that podcast consumers made an average annual household income of $63,000, compared to the $53,000 median household income by the general U.S. population.
Wilcox County is in Alabama's Black Belt, which includes some of the poorest counties in the state and country. According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in the county was $23,750 between 2011 and 2015, compared to the state's median household income of $43,623. In the same report, at least 33.2 percent of the county's population was below the poverty rate, where the state rate was 18.5 percent.
"The Podcast Consumer" estimated that around 98 million people across the country had listened to a podcast in 2016 and an estimated 150 million were familiar with the term "podcast."
Goodson is charged with multiple counts of theft, burglary, criminal trespass and possession of a forged instrument after being accused of taking a number of items from McLemore's property, including two school buses, an 18-wheeler trailer and lumber following McLemore's death. Goodson has claimed McLemore intended to leave his property to him if he died, but there was never a will. While he was alive, McLemore said he wanted to leave things for Goodson.
After McLemore died, his property was transferred to the care of his mother. According to court documents, law enforcement warned Goodson not to go on McLemore's property without permission, but Goodson went back to collect items on different occasions, claiming that the things he took were items McLemore had bought for him.
In an interview with The Tuscaloosa News published on April 9, prosecutor Bryan Jones discussed the prospects of finding an impartial jury in Bibb County.
"Honestly, by looking at it, a younger guy trying to get guardianship of a lady that he is not related to in any way, the fact that he disobeyed a judge's orders and the fact he went on the property after it was well-established that he was not supposed to, an impartial jury would be more of a concern for the defense than the prosecution," Jones said.
In addition, Goodson's attorneys have filed a motion to have a recent indictment against him quashed. The indictment, which was delivered by a grand jury last month, added multiple charges to the case. Jones said the case was re-examined after he and his team listed to "S-Town" and presented the case to another grand jury. Terry and Coleman argue that some of the new charges are identical and that the indictment should be dismissed.
A hearing is scheduled for July 19.