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JULY23 EVENING UPDATE: Body armor wouldn't have saved Jones' life

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

Bill Jones was not wearing a bullet-proof vest the day he lost his life.

Even if he was, the body armor still wouldn't have saved him. A medical examiner testified on Wednesday that two gunshots Jones suffered to the head were not survivable.

“Either one would be immediately disabling and fatal,” Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan said.

Polchan, a forensic pathologist and professor at the University of Tennessee, conducted the autopsies of Jones and Mike Brown after they were killed in a shootout on May 11, 2006. Brothers Leon and Rocky Houston are charged in the killings. Jones was a Roane County sheriff's deputy and Brown was his ride-along passenger.

Rocky's trial is scheduled to start in November. Leon's trial is now in its second week.

Using mannequins positioned on chairs, Polchan used trajectory rods to give jurors a first-hand look at how the bullets entered the bodies of the deceased men.

Polchan testified that Jones was shot 19 times and Brown was shot 11-12 times.

Jones was hit in the legs, arms, chest and head. Polchan testified that one bullet entered in the area of his buttocks and exited through his scrotum. The bullet was found in his pants when Jones was undressed for autopsy, Polchan said.

The head shots were the most damaging. Polchan said one entered near his left ear and exited near his right ear.

“It's straight across,” she said. “The damage the bullet did to the head was tremendous.”

Brown was found with his feet inside the patrol car and his body on the road.

“He didn't step out,” Polchan said. “He fell out.”

Polchan said that was understandable, considering the injuries Brown suffered. One bullet hit him in the back, fracturing his spine and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Polchan said the shot that hit Brown in the cheek is what dislodged his mandible jaw bone. It was found up the road from the patrol car.

Rocky fired 22 times in the shootout with a high-powered Maadi rifle. Leon fired eight times with a .45-caliber Glock pistol. None of Leon's shots are believed to have been fatal.

Polchan also testified that none of the shots that hit Brown and Jones were fired within close range, which she defined as 3 feet or less.

Mildred Anne Watts, the only eyewitness to testify so far, finished up her testimony in the morning. She said life has been difficult since she witnessed the shootout.

“I walk around with that fear every day of my life still,” Watts said.“I was scared to death,” she added. “There was gunshots flying everywhere.”The prosecution contends that Jones and Brown were ambushed when Jones pulled up to Leon's home on Barnard Narrows Road to serve a warrant on Rocky. The brothers claim they defended themselves after being fired upon. Jones fired 15 shots from his .357-caliber Glock pistol in the shootout. Brown shot four times with a Ruger 9mm pistol.

Watts was called as a witness by the prosecution, even though her testimony contradicted the state's theory of what happened that day. According to Watts, everyone was sitting around socializing and smoking marijuana at Leon's home before the shootout started. Watts also remained firm that the first gunshot was fired by Brown when the patrol car pulled up.

“I watched the driver (Jones) put it in park,” Watts said. “His arm went down and the passenger gun was up. That was the first one I seen go off.”

During the testimony of Roane County Medical Examiner William Bennett, lead defense attorney James Logan suggested that anti-depressant medication could have made Brown suicidal. Special prosecutor Robert “Gus” Radford tried to debunk that theory. He asked Bennett if he had any reason to believe Brown was suicidal.

“No sir,” Bennett responded.

Radford sought to discredit Watts during questioning. He asked if the Houstons' father, Clyde Houston, ever suggested to her that she say Brown and Jones shot first.

“He said a comment like that,” Watts said.

Radford also implied that her account of the shooting had a lot to do with the fear she says she's felt since the incident. Radford focused on her relationship with a neighbor Watts called Tracy.

Watts lives South of the River, and the Houston brothers have a lot of support in that part of the county.

Watts testified that the neighbor inquired about her loyalty in the case after she received a visit from TBI agent Brad Nealon. She was later interviewed in her home by Radford and Nealon with Tracy present. Radford suggested that the neighbor was present to spy on the conversation.

“She (Tracy) wasn't there to make sure you told the right thing to us?” Radford asked.

Watts got emotional when she was being cross-examined by Logan. She wept and had to wipe tears from her face.

Watts testified that she knew a bullet could hit her if she could see the gunfight. She managed to flee safely with two other people, who were at the home when the shootout started.

“I had to get out there,” Watts said. “I had to get somewhere safe.”

During cross-examination, Logan asked Radford if he had a copy of Watts' signed statement.

“It's not a signed statement,” Radford said. “You know that, Mr. Logan.”

That statement and what Watts first told authorities was also the subject of much testimony Wednesday morning. Radford claimed her statement differed sharply from what she told FBI agent Buddy Early the night of the shooting.

Radford called Early to rebut Watts' testimony. Early testified that Watts told him Rocky fired the first shots in the gunfight. Early said the statement was a composition of the notes he took during the interview with Watts. The conversation was not recorded.

“Our policy is not to record or videotape any witness,” Early said.

Logan questioned that policy, saying that federal judges have been critical of it as well. Logan also pointed out that Early didn't make his composition of the statement until four days after he interviewed Watts.