Houstons bond reduction denied

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By The Staff


Roane Newspapers

Judge James “Buddy” Scott has denied a defense request to reduce the bond for accused murderers Rocky and Leon Houston.

“I am certainly disappointed,” said Randy Rogers, attorney for Rocky. “I think we demonstrated that the bond was excessive.”

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood set bond at $900,000 for each brother during a preliminary hearing in August. Defense lawyers argued that amount is excessive and way too much for two working men presumed to be innocent.

Scott, a retired judge brought in to oversee the case, agreed to take the bond issue under advisement during a hearing in November. His final ruling on the matter was revealed in court papers on Monday. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that excessive bail shall not be required. However, Scott’s ruling seems to indicate that a defendant failing to make bond is not proof of excessive bail.

“The mere fact that the Defendants have been unable to raise the cash or present property sufficient to obtain their release on the present bonds does not necessarily mean that the bond amounts were constitutionally excessive,” Scott’s seven-page ruling states. “Tennessee law is clear that a defendant’s inability to make bond does not raise any presumption that the bond amount set was constitutionally excessive.”

James Logan, the attorney representing Leon, described the ruling as troubling.

“When an individual who called and made arrangements to turn himself in to respond to the charges and is a lifelong resident of this community is not allowed bail of a reasonable amount, that’s troubling,” Logan said.

The brothers are charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of felony murder. They are accused of killing Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his friend Mike Brown on May 11, 2006. Brown was out on a ride along with Jones when they were shot to death South of the River.

Defense lawyers contend the brothers acted in self defense. The state contends it was a premeditated killing.

Rocky was wounded in the shootout and previously testified he needed to be released from jail to receive treatment for a bad hernia. He stood up and tried to convey that to the court during one point at Monday’s hearing.

“In my humble opinion, making somebody that’s just a regular, middle class family man who’s lost has job have to make a $900,000 bond is just like not giving him a bond,” Rogers said.

Rocky is seeking to have several people recused from the case, including Scott and special prosecutor Robert “Gus” Radford. Scott set a hearing for Feb. 5 to take up those matters.

Following Monday’s hearing, Rogers explained his client’s reasoning for wanting Radford recused.

“Mr. Radford gave us, as he was duty bound, some new information about his interviewing some witnesses that made certain statements that are exculpatory or beneficial to my client,” Rogers said. “I think there becomes a potential that if that person then denies those statements were made – they weren’t recorded or nobody else saw them – it becomes an issue of credibility and Mr. Radford may have to be called as a witness to testify that yes, this witness said this on this particular day.”

Logan also raised some concerns about the length of time the case has been tied up in the court system. This coming May will mark two years since the incident. Scott spoke of a tentative trial date of July 14.

“This case is taking far too long,” Logan said. “I’m not suggesting that’s anyone’s fault, but it is a matter of concern.”

For more on this story, read Wednesday’s edition of the Roane County News.