Houston wants jury pool of 500

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By Damon Lawrence

His work may not be elegant, but Rocky Houston has been moving forward with self-representation in his federal firearms case.

He has filed several handwritten motions with the U.S. District Court in Knoxville. He wants to enlarge the jury pool, recuse U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr., and suppress video evidence in the case.

A federal grand jury indicted Houston in January on 14 counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. He faces up to 140 years in prison.

Houston claims the jury pool should be enlarged because he and his brother, Leon Houston, have been the victims of “false, slanderous, defamatory bias and negative article and publishings” since May 11, 2006. That was the day the Houston brothers got into a shootout with Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along Mike Brown.

Jones and Brown died, and the Houstons were charged with first-degree murder. Leon was acquitted in 2009, and a state appeals court ruled an error made by the judge during Rocky’s trial in 2008 amounted to an acquittal.

Rocky claims the news coverage has not only been disseminated throughout Tennessee, but also “around the world.”

“The defendant request the court to enlarge the standard jury pool of about 90 potential jury up to 500 potential jurist to assure that the defendant is afforded a fair and impartial trial by an impartial jury of the state of Tennessee,” the motion said.  

Rocky claims Shirley has a conflict of interest because he has a working relationship with Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan, U.S. Magistrate Bruce Guyton and U.S. Attorney William Killian.

Last year the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating allegations that Rocky, a convicted felon, was in possession of firearms.

A video camera installed on a utility pole on Dogtown Road allegedly captured him carrying and shooting weapons. Rocky claims the video footage was illegally obtained and should be suppressed.

He also filed a motion to dismiss the indictment.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, March 15, at the federal courthouse in Knoxville.

Rocky, who has been locked up at the Knox County Jail, claims that Varlan, Guyton and Killian have been subpoenaed to testify on his behalf.  

Leon has been incarcerated at the Blount County Jail.

He faces one count of possessing firearms while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.