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Machin presses on with his possum defense

(ran NS, S editions of tampa bay AND state)

Manny Machin freely admits killing the couple. The Tampa lawyer says they were nuisances, vermin who had been tormenting him and his neighbors for days.

He is not sure whether they were making love or fighting when he shot them down. Nor does he care. It was justified, he says.

Today, Machin intends to prove it in court.

On one side will be the controversial attorney, charged with discharging a firearm within city limits. On the other side will be the state, who is representing the interests of the victims in the case _ two possums.

It took three hours to pick a jury Monday, a process not without its share of humor.

"Do you have any feelings... pro-possum or anti-possum?" prosecutor Jan McDonald asked one prospective juror.

The man professed himself possum-neutral.

Machin told potential jurors he was a lawyer, and asked if anybody had a problem with that.

"I'm not happy with lawyers," an honest citizen replied.

Machin then quoted Shakespeare's line about a civilized society killing all of its lawyers, to which the man replied in a completely serious manner, "I'll go for that."

Machin claims the possums in question had been tormenting him, his neighbors, and his dog Pepper for days before he shot them. He also is charged with cruelty to animals.

Machin claims prosecutors are targeting him. He said his testimony in a 1991 corruption case embarrassed then-judge, now State Attorney Harry Lee Coe III.