Wise trial under way

ALBANY, Ga. -- Tiffany Wise had tears in her eyes Monday afternoon while a video showing a crime scene at Mattie Mabel Berry's residence last year panned to an image of Berry's body.

Berry, 88, was found dead in her backyard on the 1200 block of Highland Avenue on May 3, 2009. On Monday, the prosecution began presenting its case against Wise at the Dougherty County Courthouse.

The prosecution, lead by Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, contends that Wise beat Berry on her head and body with a stone, glass, plates and a block that Sunday afternoon.

Berry had been active with the Albany Rescue Mission for roughly 40-45 years at the time of the incident. Wise was known to be living at the facility at some point.

"She was a very active and vibrant part of our community," Edwards said in his opening statements.

Still and video images were taken at the scene within a few hours of the incident as investigators walked through Berry's property, which were shown in the courtroom Monday. The images depicted blood stains and droplets throughout the residence as well as on the brick that killed her. Also found on the brick were strands of hair.

Berry was also known to be using an oxygen tank, but was still able to function on her own. After hearing suspicious activity in the house, a neighbor reportedly knocked on the door at which time Wise told her Berry wasn't there and blocked the neighbor's view into the house.

At that point, the neighbor, identified in the courtroom as Constance Chambers, called the police. Wise reportedly drove off alone in a 1996 Ford Explorer that belonged to her sister. Berry's body was found outside the back door in a blanket under a bush, still connected to her oxygen supply.

Prosecutors said Wise's sister brought her to the Law Enforcement Center, where Wise contended she and Berry were both attacked by a third party. The defendant provided handwritten and oral statements saying that she went to the house at the direction of someone else to get money.

"She claimed that (Herbert) Washington threatened Berry and that Wise was injured trying to assist Berry," Edwards said Monday. "She maintained this story."

Edwards added that Wise confessed to the crime when Chambers gave her account of what happened.

Before the opening statements on Monday afternoon, a jury was selected consisting of nine women and three men. The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty in the case.

Those set to testify in the case today and Wednesday include officials from the Albany Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well as neighbors of the victim, Dougherty County Coroner Emma Quimbley and family members of the defendant.

An indictment handed down by the grand jury in June 2009 charged Wise with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss is overseeing the case. Leisa Terry is serving as Wise's counsel.