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By DAMON LAWRENCE
A judge let Rocky and Leon Houston out of jail on bond — and he’s apparently the only one who can send them back if conditions of the bond aren’t being followed.
“The judge sets the conditions of release, so it’s always up to the judge what happens,” special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine said.
One of the conditions of release is electronic monitoring. The Houstons are required to pay for the service.
“It’s $400 a month,” Leon said. “I can’t afford to make the payments.”
Irvine wouldn’t say what he would do if the brothers don’t pay for the monitoring, but he was adamant that he has no power to send them back to jail for not paying.
“That’s up to the judge,” Irvine said.
The judge is David Hayes from West Tennessee. He took over after Judge James “Buddy” Scott abruptly stepped down from the case in February.
Hayes signed an order on March 11 that cleared the way for the Houstons’ release on bond.
After nearly three years of incarceration, the brothers walked out of jail and into the arms of family members a day after the order was signed.
Leon said not only is the electronic monitoring a financial hardship, but he also called it unnecessary.
“We got a $1,053,000 bond that stands good for our appearance,” he said. “We got land in Roane County, family in Roane County.
“We ain’t going nowhere.”
Rocky and Leon are accused of killing Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown.
Jones and Brown, a former lawman, were friends who often rode together when Jones was on patrol. They were killed in a shootout outside of Leon’s home on Barnard Narrows Road on May 11, 2006.
The prosecution claims the men were ambushed and killed in cold blood. Rocky and Leon claim they acted in self defense after Jones and Brown pulled up shooting.
Leon was tried in July of last year, but Scott declared a mistrial after the jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.
Leon’s retrial is scheduled for Aug. 10 in Roane County Criminal Court.
“There shouldn’t be a trial,” Leon said. “There’s nothing legal about none of these proceedings.”
Rocky was tried for the killings last December. He was found not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in Brown’s slaying.
The jury also found him not guilty on several lesser charges in both deaths, but Scott declared the verdicts on the lesser charges didn’t count because the jury didn’t follow proper instructions.
“They did count,” Rocky said. “The appeals court, I think, will rule in my favor.”
Rocky’s case is now tied up in the Court of Criminal Appeals. The state plans to retry him, but he argues that would constitute double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
“They’re saying even though he’s been found not guilty, we’re going to try him again,” Rocky said. “They can’t go there. My double jeopardy rights kick in just like anybody else.”
Rocky and Leon have long claimed that they are the victims of a corrupt judicial system. Local officials were given an earful about their complaints and theories Friday morning.
“Mr. Rocky Houston was doing a lot of talking,” Court Clerk Angela Randolph said. “We didn’t discuss a whole lot of things other than I was looking for documents for him.”
The Houstons have been at odds with Randolph for years, but she wouldn’t comment when asked if she felt threatened by Friday’s encounter.
Hayes signed an order on March 26 that recused her from participation in any and all jury-related matters in Leon’s upcoming trial. The brothers accused Randolph of violating that order.
The brothers also had complaints about their lawyers, state judges, federal judges, Irvine and Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Having been recused, District Attorney General Russell Johnson’s office has no involvement with the murder cases against the Houstons. Johnson faxed a letter to the Houstons’ attorneys regarding their appearance at his office Friday morning. He noted that it appeared to be a violation of their bond conditions.
“My office has received reports, and your client’s appearance at my office would make those reports appear to be true, that your clients are moving about the community in a manner and in places that put them in violation of Judge Hayes’ conditional order of bond and pretrial release,” Johnson wrote.
“This information has also been reported to General Irvine.”