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By DAMON LAWRENCE
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,"
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
"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.