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Nov. 10 Update: Houston case soon to go to jury

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Leon Houston's fate could soon be up to a jury. The state rested its case

in his retrial Tuesday afternoon and the defense is expected to conclude

its case Wednesday.

Leon is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of Roane County

Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown. Jones and Brown, a former police officer, were good

friends who often rode together when Jones was on patrol. Leon also faces

one count of felony murder in Brown's death.

Medical examiner Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan testified about the injuries

Jones and Brown suffered in the shootout with Leon and his younger

brother, Rocky Houston, on May 11, 2006.

Mileusnic-Polchan used mannequins and probes to demonstrate how the wounds

entered and exited the bodies of Jones and Brown.

"The left eye was completely gone because of the injury," she said, when

describing one of the gunshot wounds to Brown's head.

Another shot separated his jaw bone from his face. "It (jaw bone) was actually yards from the body down the road,"

Mileusnic-Polchan said.

Brown was on the ground paralyzed when he received those devastating

shots, according to Mileusnic-Polchan.

Jones' final moments were agonizing as well. The driver's side of his

patrol car was riddled with bullets from Rocky's high-powered Maadi rifle.

Mileusnic-Polchan testified that bullets along with pieces of plastic and

metal tore through his body as he sat in the driver's seat. He had a total

of 19 wounds, including two head shots.

"There was no evidence of intermediate targets," Mileusnic-Polchan said,

when describing the wounds to Jones' head. "The other wounds, on the other

hand, they all had evidence of between the target, meaning that they are

coming through something to the body."

All of the fatal wounds came from the Maadi rifle. Leon fired eight times

with a Glock pistol, though it was suggested by special prosecutor Kenneth

Irvine in opening statements that Leon may have fired the Maadi at some

point during the shootout.

The incident occurred outside of Leon's home on Barnard Narrows Road.

Jones and Brown and the Houstons all fired weapons during the gunfight.

The brothers claim they were defending themselves after Jones and Brown

pulled up shooting.

Defense witness Tobey Yates was one of three people at the home during the

gunfight. He testified that the first shots came from the patrol car.

"They slowed down and then the shooting started," Yates said.

"When you say the shooting started, who shot first?" defense attorney

James Logan asked.

"The shooting was coming from the car," Yates responded.

Yates said he could hear bullets slapping the side of the house as he

scrambled to take cover in a back washroom.

"I was fearing for my own life," Yates said.

Leon's defense also focused on trying to discredit one of the state's key

witnesses. Leon and Joseph Ryan Whitefield once worked together for a

construction company. Whitefield testified last week that Leon threatened

to come to the courthouse with AK-47s a-blazing if law enforcement

continued to harass him and his family.

Teddy Argue also worked with Leon and Whitefield. Argue told jurors that

Whitefield should not be trusted.

"Should he be believed in this courtroom as a witness?" Logan asked.

"I don't think so," Argue responded.

Jeff Low, another former co-worker with the construction company, said

Whitefield told him he had a quid pro quo arrangement going with prosecutors for his

testimony.

"The deal was he would have warrants taken care of or dropped," Low said.

Irvine acknowledged that the state got a failure-to-appear warrant

dismissed for Whitefield in order to secure his testimony in Leon's

retrial. As far as whether Whitefield is believable or not, Irvine said

that's a question for the jury.

"It's up to the jury if they want to believe any witness," Irvine said.

A jury couldn't come to an agreement when Leon was tried in 2008, so

former Houston judge James "Buddy" Scott declared a mistrial. Leon's

retrial could finish up by the end of the week.