Who fired fatal shots? Attorneys tell 2 sides in Leon Houston retrial

Who fired fatal shots? Attorneys tell 2 sides in Leon Houston retrial

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Leon Houston Leon Houston

6 News Reporter

KINGSTON (WATE) -- In opening arguments Thursday for Leon Houston's retrial, his attorney claimed Leon's brother fired the shots that killed a Roane County deputy and his ride-along friend. But the prosecution said it's not clear which brother fired.

Leon and Rocky Houston are charged in the fatal 2006 shootings of Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along friend, Mike Brown. The deputy went to Leon's home to serve an arrest warrant for Rocky.

Leon has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecution: Who fired the fatal shots?

Prosecutor Ken Irvine questioned who shot Brown when he was on the ground, paralyzed, and mentioned that a piece of Brown's jaw was found 100 feet down the road.

Irvine told the jury those shots that hit Brown were all fired from Rocky's semi-automatic rifle, but "we don't know whether Rocky or Leon fired those shots."

He also said Rocky yelled, "It's on now," right before the shooting started.

Irvine said the Houston brothers had already made up their minds what to do. He said Jones and Brown were caught by surprise and "the physical evidence is very telling."

Defense: Shootout not planned

Defense attorney Jim Logan began by asking the jury why Leon would have invited friends over to his house if he planned to ambush Jones and Brown. "That's not a man who has premeditated a homicide."

Logan said Leon ran when the shooting began, but he came back with a gun because his brother was involved.

"My client never killed anybody. Medical proof will show that," Logan told the jury. He also said Rocky fired the fatal shots.

Mother of ride-along friend's testimony changed from previous trial

The state called Lillian Patricia Brown, the mother of Mike Brown, as the first witness. Brown was a former police officer who retired after having a stroke.

Brown said she never heard her son and Jones talking about the Houston brothers. Jones regularly took her son on ride-alongs to get him out of the house.

On cross examination, defense attorney Logan pointed out Brown said in Rocky's first trial she had heard the men talking about the brothers before.

Brown said she was confused at that trial and admitted she said differently under oath.

Deputy's sister: brother was veteran officer

The state called Rose Jones, the sister of Deputy Jones, to the stand. She said he was a former Marine and veteran officer. However, he had only served as a Roane County deputy for six months before he was killed.

Convenience store worker: Men asked for fresh pot of coffee

Lisa Wright, an employee at a Rocky Top convenience store, testified that she saw Brown and Jones the day of the shootout and "nothing unusual" happened.

Wright said the men told her they'd be back in a half an hour and left, heading south. They even asked her to put on a fresh pot of coffee.

Former Roane County deputy testifies on warrant

Former Roane County Deputy Melissa Heidinger was called to the stand. She managed the arrest warrants for the deputies to serve.

Heidinger said there was a warrant on file in May 2006 for Rocky for failure to appear in court in an aggravated assault case. It was issued on October 2005.

She said she showed the warrant to then-Sheriff David Haggard when it was issued. "He told me not to go down there." The Houstons lived Barnard Narrows Road, a narrow, winding, isolated country road.

Heidinger said she saw Deputy Jones the day of the shootout and mentioned the Houston brothers.

She said Deputy Jones "stated to me they (the Houstons) had driven by his house (in Rockwood) that afternoon."

Heidinger said Jones was in a "good mood." She said she also repeated what the sheriff said about not going to Rocky's home.

She said the warrant was served on Rocky in jail, five days after his arrest.

On cross examination, Heidinger admitted to defense attorney Logan that she previously testified the sheriff told all road deputies to avoid the Houstons unless they were in town.

McGuckin went to the scene. He described seeing the bodies of Jones and Brown.

He said he waved at the Houstons on the porch as he passed that day. "I never had a problem with him (Leon)."

Deputy directs Jones to Houstons

Deputy Guy McGuckin was called to the stand. He passed the Houston homes on the day of the shootout.

He said he noticed people, including Rocky, on the farmhouse porch as he passed.

McGuckin said he tried to call a fellow deputy about Rocky but he was off-duty. Then he tried to call Deputy Jones and got his voice mail. He wound up meeting Jones on the road in his cruiser.

He told prosecutor Irvine all the deputies knew about the warrant for Rocky. He said Deputy Jones said they were going to talk to the Houstons and he said, "go get him."

After that, McGuckin said he went to his mother's for supper. That's where he got a call from his sister about an officer being shot. She thought it was him.

On cross examination, McGuckin told defense attorney Logan he didn't see anyone with guns when he passed the Houstons. He said he wasn't looking for any.

When Logan pressed McGuckin for what else he said to Jones on the road, he said what he told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was, "Go get the SOB."

Logan asked, "You told Jones to arrest the SOB?"

"Yes," McGuckin said. "He was an SOB."

911 supervisor: It's not unusual to lose contact with officers for several minutes

After lunch, the state Roane County E911 dispatch supervisor Linda Booth to the stand. She was on duty the night of the shootout.

She reviewed the log from May 11, 2006f for Deputy Jones' unit. He clocked in at 4:00 p.m. and answered some other calls before going to the Houstons.

The call about the shooting came in at 6:12.

On cross examination, defense attorney Logan implied that Deputy Jones didn't follow standard operating procedures for arrests by calling in a 10-6 code, busy at a certain address.

Booth told Logan it's not unusual to be out of contact with deputies for 40 minutes or so. There was no contact with Deputy Jones from 5:16 to 6:04.

Deputy took more than 200 photos of shooting scene

Deputy Greg Russell was called to the stand. He photographed the shooting scene and said he took 200-300 pictures.

Russell said that's not counting the pictures he took of Houston brothers' guns and Rocky's four-wheeler, which had "a lot of blood" on it.

On cross examination, defense attorney Logan wanted to know if any photos show bullet holes in the porch from Jones' gun. Russell said he shot most photos from the road.

Leon's uncle took wounded Rocky to hospital, let Leon out on way

Leon's uncle, Ledford "Ray" Johnson, took the stand next. He said he and his wife picked up snacks at Wal-Mart for Leon and friends helping remodel Leon's farmhouse.

Johnson said while he was at Leon's, he saw a cruiser pass by "going real slow." He left right after that.

However, he heard the shots because he lives nearby on Dogtown Road. 

Johnson said a few minutes later, he heard groaning outside his door, then a knock. He let Rocky and Leon in and said Rocky was really bleeding from a gunshot wound.

He said he agreed to take Rocky to a hospital in Oak Ridge which Rocky thought would be safer than the one in Harriman.

Johnson said he let Leon out on the way because Rocky thought he'd be safer if he wasn't with them.

Lead investigator takes stand

Lead Roane County investigator Deputy John French was the next witness called to the stand. He said when he arrived at the scene, the first thing he saw was Mike Brown's teeth laying in the road.

French said he secured the crime scene and TBI handled all the processing, which took more than 30 hours to complete.

Jurors reminded to avoid media coverage

Court ended for the day about 4:25. Judge David Hayes reminded the jury not to follow news about the case or discuss it, at the risk of a mistrial.

The judge told the jurors Thursday morning, "You and you alone are the judges of the facts in this case. You are the sole determiner."

A jury is made up of 12 jurors, plus three alternates.


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