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Houston lawyer wrangling continues

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

Attorneys Randy Rogers and James Logan showed up at the Roane County Courthouse on Thursday as unwanted men.

Unwanted, that is, by their clients, Rocky and Leon Houston.

The brothers, who are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony murder, filed motions to represent themselves.

Rocky and Leon are accused of killing Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his friend, Mike Brown, on May 11, 2006. Brown was on a ride-along with Jones when they were shot to death South of the River outside of Leon’s home.

The request for self-representation took precedence over everything else that was supposed to be discussed during Thursday’s hearing, including the desire of the brothers to have court clerk Angela Randolph recused.

That matter will be taken up at some other date.

The brothers contend that Logan, who represents Leon, and Rogers, who represents Rocky, are potential witnesses in the case.

Special Judge James “Buddy” Scott told each brother that he considered their request and con-cluded that there was nothing Rogers or Logan could testify to at trial that couldn’t be presented through other means.

When pressed by the judge, both brothers were adamant that self-representation was the course they wanted to take, basically firing their lawyers in open court.

“Mr. Logan will be called as a witness to testify to a criminal enterprise here in Roane County,” Leon said.

Leon appeared to indicate that he only wanted to represent himself until he can find another lawyer. The judge gave him until April 21 to do so. Until Leon retains another attorney, or Scott decides he can represent himself, Logan will remain his attorney of record.

Scott explained to Rocky the pitfalls of trying to be his own lawyer, including the fact that he is incarcerated and lacks access to a law library.

Rocky said he has a team of investigators who can conduct law research and interview witnesses on his behalf.

Scott also pointed out that the state has until 30 days before the start of the trial to file a notice to seek the death penalty.

The risk of facing execution didn’t deter Rocky, who accused Rogers of lying to him on several occasions.

Scott told Rocky he will take his request for self-representation under advisement, which means he didn’t decide on the matter Thursday and will likely issue a ruling at a later date.

Rogers will continue to remain Rocky’s attorney of record, and possibly even standby counsel at trial should the judge decide to grant his request.

Rocky said he has not entertained the thought of hiring another attorney, but he’s keeping his options open.

The brothers are each being held on a $900,000 bond. Leon is being detained in Loudon County. Rocky is being held in Hamilton County.

Their trial is tentatively scheduled to start on July 14. Scott told the brothers that despite their request, that date still holds firm.

“This case is scheduled for July 14 and that’s a trial date that is going to be met,” Scott said. “Regardless of you saying you want to represent yourself, it’s not going to change.”

Special prosecutor Robert “Gus” Radford is also looking for another attorney.

Radford said he has decided against using Nashville attorney and Roane County native Dan Warlick as an assistant special prosecutor.

Radford said the case caused him some concern.

Scott cited that case in his partial ruling on whether or not it was a conflict of interest for Warlick to serve on the prosecution team.

Warlick is defending a client in a criminal case in which Radford is the prosecutor.

“Like the attorney in White, Mr. Warlick will be required to be Mr. Radford’s adversary in one proceeding and his ally in this one,” Scott’s order read.

Warlick is a high-priced attorney who has defended some notable cases before the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners.

Rather than create an issue that could be used for an appeal, Warlick will no longer be participating in the state’s case, Radford said.

Radford said he does plan to seek additional assistance to help in the prosecution of the brothers.