The criminal corruption trial of Jeff and Lori McMahan figures to feature some of the same prosecution witnesses who testified in the same Muskogee courthouse last month during a trial for McAlester businessman Francis Stipe.
For sheer entertainment value, however, the two trials couldn’t be more different.
The difference starts with the man overseeing the McMahans’ trial. U.S. District Judge James H. Payne’s demeanor is, in a word, judicial. He listens politely and typically delivers monotone answers to attorneys’ questions. He has, however, shown a tendency to mispronounce the defendants’ last name during two pre-trial hearings.
Payne’s manner is a sharp contrast to that of U.S. District Judge Ronald White, who presided at Stipe’s trial.
Among White’s antics:
– Bringing a cup of tea into a morning session and explaining to jurors why he could have it but they couldn’t.
– Scolding a reporter — outside the jury’s presence — for writing that shouting could be heard coming from the jury deliberation room.
– Describing for jurors in great detail how his dog’s intestinal worms would affect the trial. (White had to pick his dog up from the vet, which gave jurors a longer lunch break one day.) He then displayed a photo of his dog, gave jurors daily updates and turned the photo to face them for the rest of the trial.
Payne is far more predictable. That could make it imperative for the McMahans’ jury, which convenes Monday, to have frequent doses of caffeine.