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By DAMON LAWRENCE
The jurors who will sit in judgement of Leon Houston could be seated during the day on Tuesday.
"It looks like we could perhaps do that with the progress we're making," Special Judge David Hayes said.
Jury selection for Houston's retrial on murder charges started Monday. Questioning the potential jurors for Houston is attorney James Logan.
Houston fired Logan during a hearing in July, but asked that he be allowed back on the case Monday morning. Special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine objected, but Hayes allowed Logan to return.
"I recognize Mr. Houston's Sixth Amendment right to counsel," Hayes said. "I find that paramount under the circumstances. Therefore, I'll grant his motion permitting Mr. Logan to enter at this point."
Logan represented Houston in his July 2008 trial, which ended in a hung jury.
"I know of no other person who could enter the case at this stage and provide the services that I can provide," Logan said.
Hayes said 12 jurors and three alternates will be seated to hear the case. Right now, the plan is to have them sequestered.
More than a dozen potential jurors were excused on Monday. A deputy with the Roane County Sheriff's Office, a Roane County judge and a man who complained about being hungry were among those excused. In addition to the
50 or so who were left on Monday, Hayes said he expects another 80 potential jurors to report Tuesday morning.
Houston is facing two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony murder for the deaths of Mike Brown and Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones.
Brown, a former lawman, was on a ride-along with Jones when they died in a shootout with Houston and his younger brother, Rocky Houston, on May 11, 2006.
During the July hearing, Leon accused Logan of being ineffective counsel and claimed he was a material witness in the case because he could testify about insurance fraud. Less than a week after he was fired, Logan took out a $350,000 lien for attorney's fees and expenses against property owned by the Houston family. Leon and Rocky said that lien was preventing Leon from hiring another attorney.
Leon started the day representing himself. It wasn't until after he lost a series of bizarre motions that he asked for Logan to be allowed back in the case. Logan had Leon acknowledge from the witness stand that he would not be testifying on his behalf.
"Do you understand that by asking me to re-enter this case, that I will not be a witness in this case in any way, shape, form or fashion?" Logan asked.
"Yes, sir," Leon responded.
Leon and Rocky have both said a vast conspiracy orchestrated by local, state and federal officials is the reason behind their current predicaments. Hayes quashed the subpoenas that Leon had issued for high-ranking officials, including Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S.Judge Curtis L. Collier.
During cross examination, Irvine asked Leon if he understood that he could permanently give up his chances to have those high-ranking officials testify by having Logan back as his attorney.
"I'm giving it up in this trial, but not for appeal purposes," Leon said.
"It doesn't work that way, sir," Irvine responded. "If you give it up in this trial, the appellate courts can consider it waived also."
Irvine told Hayes he didn't think Leon understood what he was doing.
"Mr. Houston wants to have it both ways," Irvine said. "He wants Mr. Logan to be in, have Mr. Logan not call witnesses that really are irrelevant to this case, but then preserve those for appeal. I don't think it's going to work that way. I think he's waiving issues and he doesn't even understand what he's waiving."
Irvine told prospective jurors they could hear a lot about self-defense during the trial. Rocky and Leon claim they were defending themselves against Jones and Brown. All four men fired weapons in the shootout, which took place outside of Leon's home on Barnard Narrows Road.
The state claims Brown and Jones were massacred with a barrage of bullets when Jones showed up to serve an outstanding warrant on Rocky. The brothers claim Jones and Brown pulled up to the house shooting.
A jury found Rocky not-guilty on some charges and couldn't reach an agreement on others when he was tried in December 2008. Rocky's case is stayed pending a decision from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
The state wants to retry him, but he claims that would constitute double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.