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Confusion reigns after Houston verdict; lawyer says retrial likely

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By The Staff

By TERRI LIKENS

rceditor@bellsouth.net

Neither side in the double-murder trial of Rocky Houston will find resolution in their Christmas stockings.

A jury on Friday afternoon found Houston not guilty of some charges and could not agree on others.

Judge James “Buddy” Scott did not immediately declare it a mistrial as he did when jurors could not agree in the trial last summer of Rocky's brother, Leon.

Scott kept Houston's bond at $900,000 and said he would work with attorneys on both sides to schedule a status hearing in the case.

Both Houston brothers are charged with in killing Roane County Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along friend Mike Brown in a shootout on May 11, 2006, outside Leon's Barnard Narrows Road home.

“It's a bit confusing as to where we are,” defense attorney Randy Rogers said after Scott dismissed the jury.

“This is the first time I've ever had a jury verdict returned this way,” Rogers said. “”This is a case that will have to be tried again.”

The mothers of Jones and Brown leaned into each other as the jury was questioned about each possible charge — from first-degree murder to a host of lesser charges — and their verdicts.

On most, the jury said they could not come to a unanimous decision, but on some they unanimously agreed to a not guilty verdict.

Perhaps most significantly, the jury came to a unanimous decision of “not guilty” of first-degree murder in the shooting of Brown, a former police officer and friend of Jones.

Could that decision — through the legal principal of double jeopardy — put an end to the deliberation on the counts involved in the Brown death?

“I can't tell you,” Rogers said.

Special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine left the courtroom to talk to family after the jury was dismissed. Attempts to reach him by phone later were unsuccssful.

Lisa Burris, the Houstons' sister, spoke to reporters outside the courtroom.

The testimony in the case, she said, raised many doubts.

“There was enough contradiction in people's stories to say there's some question here,” Burris said.

With a retrial of Leon already scheduled for March, she said she was not disappointed at the prospect of another trial for Rocky.

“Everything's done on God's timetable, not ours,” she said. “It's not over. I'm not giving up.”

As jurors were dismissed, a man carrying the two suits and a like-new pair of boots Houston had worn throughout the trial returned the items to the side of the courtroom where Houston supporters sat.

One of the jurors agreed to talk to the Roane County News after the case, although he would not give his name for fear of retribution by law officers.

He said he thought Houston was not guilty.

“I think they (the police) were harassing him,” he said.

He said jurors had a tough time agreeing on interpretations of the law.

“It got vocal several times,” he said.

Houston's attorney said Rocky fired in self defense. Witnesses testified that the first shot came from the cruiser.

Houston, a former high-clearance security guard for the U.S. Department of Energy, had filed large numbers of lawsuits against a broad array of officials. Many of his targets were in law enforcement, but others included the governor, the U.S. president, the judge in this case and even Rogers.

In a feud that appeared to begin over a 2001 speeding ticket, Houston alleged that the officials were violating his rights and conspiring against him.

Matters escalated to the point that a state police SWAT team was sent to serve him with a warrant in 2003.

According to paperwork presented in the trial, Houston lost his high-paying security job after a letter was sent to his employer by Jack Stockton, then Harriman's police chief.

Stockton, who is now Roane County sheriff, allegedly called Houston a dangerous man in the letter.