The jury selection process in the trial of accused Toomer's Corner oak poisoner Harvey Updyke only just begun Tuesday, but if Updyke's comments to the Auburn student newspaper are any indication, he may have already lost the stomach for his impending legal battle.
The Plainsman reported Tuesday that when asked about his alleged crime outside an elevator at the Lee County Justice Center, Updyke readily admitted to having poisoned the famous Auburn landmark.
“Did I do it? Yes,” Updyke reportedly said.
“They're going to find me guilty… it's a done deal,” he added. “I don't think I'm going to get a fair trial.”
The Plainsman and story writer Andrew Yawn insisted that Updyke was aware Yawn was a reporter when making his comments.
Wednesday morning, Updyke attorney Everett Wess told al.com both his client and his wife Elva Updyke had denied making the comments quoted in the Plainsman. The paper issued a statement saying it stood by its reporting "100 percent."
"The information gathered was not prompted nor off the record," editor Robert Lee wrote.
"The article has permeated the local media and the national media in respect to the trial," he told the court. Judge Jacob Walker declined the request, having instructed potential jurors to avoid any coverage of the trial, but left the possibility open the request could be granted later.
Yawn was served with a subpoena Wednesday morning and has been named an official witness, preventing him from reporting further on the trial. Walker has issued a gag order for everyone involved in the trial aside from the attorneys, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has reported.
Assuming the Plainsman's reporting is accurate, it wouldn't be the first time that Updyke has all but confessed to the crime. Attorney Glennon Threatt Jr. asked to withdraw as Updyke's representation last October after Updyke appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show (against Threatt's advice) and apologized to Auburn fans for "the damage I have done." Updyke has also admitted to being the Finebaum caller "Al from Dadeville" who originally boasted of killing the oaks on the show in late January 2011, though he has claimed he made the call to take credit for a crime he knew had been committed by a second party.
Updyke has repeatedly complained about his arrest's impact on his failing health and reiterated those concerns to the Plainsman, saying he has lost 62 pounds since his arrest and is currently taking 18 medications.
“I thought I was going to pass out all morning,” he said of the trial.
If there's any good news for Harvey Updyke -- and there is not much for him at this point -- it's that at the rate things are going, his trial could be mercifully brief.
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