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Defense tears into police lineup, witnesses

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Joanna Hayes listens as her attorney speaks Wednesday morning just before opening statements were given in the Target murder case involving her daughter-in-law.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Joanna Hayes listens as her attorney speaks Wednesday morning just before opening statements were given in the Target murder case involving her daughter-in-law.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Defense attorney Bruce Morriss was doggedly critical of an all-female photo lineup Snellville police showed the six people who witnessed the fatal shooting of Heather Strube and other occurrences at the scene.

As testimony tipped past the one-week mark Thursday, Morriss pressed Snellville police Capt. Harold Thomas as to why witnesses were asked to pick a suspect from six female mugshots when all recalled the shooter as male. Thomas said evidence at the time of a possible female shooter justified police actions.

All six witnesses described the shooter as wearing a wig, with a small frame, Thomas said.

The state rested its case Wednesday, and Joanna Hayes' defense team began calling roughly a dozen witnesses Thursday morning, with more expected today before closing arguments. Her lawyers told reporters they were still in discussions with Hayes about whether she'll testify or not.

In Georgia, that decision is left up to the defendant.

Another point of contention, as Morriss sees it, is how rapidly Snellville police locked onto Hayes as a suspect. Detective Kevin Sebring, the lead investigator at the outset, said Hayes' alibi was dotted with red flags, which kept police interested from two days after the shooting.

"She could not provide us with information that would keep us from keeping her as our prime suspect," Sebring testified.

One witness, Target shopper Julie Rom, testified that characteristics of a person she saw in televised media reports about the case matched the gait, shoulders and stature of the shooter. It wasn't clarified whom she saw on television.

Morriss was critical of Rom's recollection, wondering aloud, "Is it fair to say you're trying so hard to help the prosecution?" he asked.

"I'm here to tell the truth," Rom replied.

Prosecutors believe Hayes, 47, disguised herself as a man with a wig and mustache the afternoon of April 26, 2009, and fired a single, fatal shot to Strube's head, with her son only a couple of feet away.

In an early interview with police, Hayes admitted to an investigator she disliked her daughter-in-law because her mothering habits were subpar, according to testimony.

A Conyers floral designer, 25-year-old Strube and her husband, Steven, were in the final stages of a divorce, following their marriage in May 2004.

Hayes faces life in prison.