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By DAMON LAWRENCE
By DAMON LAWRENCE
In his closing arguments Friday, special prosecutor Robert "Gus" Radford called two defense witnesses liars in the Houston double murder case.
Radford gave a rundown of the testimony as he tried to convince a Roane County jury to convict Leon Houston on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony murder. The jury will start deliberations on Saturday.
Radford told the jurors to believe its witness, Joseph Whitefield, and not to believe Randall Townsend and Tobey Yates.
The state contends Leon and his brother Rocky Houston ambushed Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along passenger Mike Brown, killing them with a hail of bullets outside of Leon's home on May 11, 2006.
The brothers, who claim they acted in self defense, are being tried separately. Rocky's trial is scheduled for November.
The state is not saying that Leon fired any of the shots that killed the two men. However, since he was an active participant in the shootout, he shares the same guilt as Rocky, Radford said.
Whitefield and Leon are former coworkers. Whitefield testified that Leon threatened to come to the courthouse with "AKs (AK-47s) a-blazing" if authorities kept harassing him and Rocky.
Whitefield also said Leon bragged how he could kill someone and get away with it because all the judges in Roane County would have to recuse themselves from his case. Radford told the jurors that Whitefield wasn't capable of fabricating those stories.
"I submit you can take his testimony as worthy of belief," Radford said.
Radford said that Yates and Townsend, both friends of the Houstons, were lying when they testified. On the day of the shooting, Townsend claims he was working in his mother's yard when Jones pulled up in his patrol car.
"He (Jones) patted his gun with his right hand," Townsend said. "He said if you see Rocky Houston, you tell him I got something for him."
Radford called that statement ridiculous.
"I submit to you that never took place," Radford said. "That is a fabrication."
Radford said Jones didn't clock in for work until 3:25 p.m on May 11, 2006. Townsend said he believed the encounter happened between 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Yates was one of two eyewitnesses to testify about what they saw the day of the shooting. Yates testified that the first shots fired in the gunfight came from the patrol car.
“Nothing he said was believable at all,” Radford said.
Jones was shot 19 times and Brown 11 to 12 times. Yates told Radford it didn't bother him that the two men were killed.
"Is that the kind of person you want to believe?," Radford asked the jury.
Rocky is believed to have fired 22 shots with a high-powered rifle. Radford kept referring to it as a "knockoff of an AK-47" during his closing argument.
Radford told jurors that Rocky started firing on the patrol car from Leon's porch as it was coming up the street. Leon was lying on the ground behind a bush firing, Radford said.
"Rocky Joe Houston started shooting at that car as it was driving down the road," Radford said.
Radford said Jones and Brown became sitting ducks when a bullet severed the fuel line of the patrol car. That might answer the question about why Jones just didn't drive away. He couldn't, Radford said, because the car was no longer drivable.
"Mr. Jones didn't turn off his car," Radford said. "Rocky turned off his car when he shot through the fuel line."
He asked the jurors to use their common sense.
"And you will know that Clifford Leon Houston, along with his brother, committed murder in the first degree on these two men and also the felony murder of Mr. Brown," Radford said.
Lead defense attorney James Logan invoked the names of John Adams and Yogi Berra during his closing argument, and a mythical figure he called Lady Justice.
Logan told the jury that justice in Leon's case is an acquittal.
“Leon Houston is not guilty,” Logan said. “There are reasons and facts to doubt his guilt.”
Logan targeted Whitefield, Leon's former coworker who testified for the state. During cross examination, Whitefield said no when Logan asked was he under a criminal investigation. However, Jeremy Goins, a sergeant with the Jacksboro Police Department, testified on Thursday that Whitefield became aware of an investigation into him for theft on July 7.
“This man is unworthy of belief,” Logan said.
Logan also sought to restore credibility to Townsend and Yates, the two defense witnesses who Radford referred to as liars. Logan said Townsend and Yates were forthcoming with the jury about their criminal pasts, unlike Whitefield.
The state contends the murders were premeditated. Logan said that makes no sense. According to testimony, Leon smoked pot with Yates, Mildred Watts and another woman at the home before the shootout started. Both Yates and Watts also said they didn't see Leon with a gun.
“There is no reason on God's green Earth to believe Leon Houston premeditated these killings,” Logan said.
Since the burden of proof is on the state, Radford was allowed to make a rebuttal after Logan's closing argument.
He focused on a window switch that was found some distance behind the patrol car Jones was driving. Radford said the only logical conclusion is the car was shot where the switch was found, which he said is proof the car was shot at while it was coming up the road.
Radford got emotional toward the end when he was describing Jones, a former Marine and Army Ranger.
Leon fired eight times in the shootout. His shots might not have been fatal, but his intent was clear, Radford said.
“He was trying to kill them,” Radford said.
Judge James “Buddy” Scott sent the jury home just before 4 p.m. and told them to return at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Sixteen jurors, eight men and eight women, have been listening to the evidence throughout the trial. Only 12 will deliberate the case. Scott said he plans to draw 12 names at random to decide which jurors will determine Leon's fate. A juror got sick at one point on Friday, but was able to return.
Before deliberations begin, Scott said he has a set of lengthy instructions to read to the jury. He estimated that could take about an hour. The jury will be allowed to consider a lesser charge of criminal responsibility.
The reading of the jury verdict is typically the most emotional part of the trial, Scott said. He warned the courtroom audience that he doesn't want any outbursts of emotions when the verdict is read.