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Witness contradicts prosecution argument in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s criminal trial

Even though Alabama is an at-will state, former Limestone Co. Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough said Blakely could not actually fire anyone in the sheriff's department for any reason.

Posted: Jul 22, 2021 5:37 PM
Updated: Jul 22, 2021 7:38 PM

Witness testimonies continued Thursday in the criminal trial of long-time Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely.

One of the six people to testify was former Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough. From 2014 to 2018, Yarbrough was the highest elected official in the county.

As the chairman, Yarbrough had supervision over the sheriff's office, including Blakely himself.

Even though Alabama is an at-will state, meaning an employee can be fired at any time for any reason, Yarbrough said Blakely could not actually fire anyone in the sheriff's office for any reason.

If Blakely wanted to fire someone, he would have to recommend an employee be fired to Yarbrough and the county commission, and they would have the final say.

Yarbrough said this process is specific to Limestone County, and it could be different in Madison County or other places throughout Alabama.

However, his testimony contradicts a previous testimony from the jail clerk, Ramona Robinson. Robinson would let Blakely take money from the inmate fund and put "IOUs" in their place.

She said she never told Blakely he had to pay the money back because the sheriff is her boss, and she thought she could have lost her job.

With the county commission chairman clarifying that it's actually him who would have the final say over hiring and firing, it contradicts one of the state's arguments that Blakely used his position of power over his employees.

Court will resume Friday as the state brings more witnesses to the stand.

Although they were expected to take a week and a half to make their case, they are moving through witnesses faster than expected and could call their final witness Friday afternoon.

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