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Patience also on trial in Houston case

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

To say Wednesday was a trying day for Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood would be an understatement.

His time inside the Roane County Criminal Courtroom was filled with sidebars, recesses and admonishments because Rocky Houston is acting as his own attorney during his police chase trial.

"The court has found that you appeared here today with an attorney (Lindsey B. Lander) that had been provided to you by court appointment," Blackwood told Houston. "But that by your actions regarding that attorney and with prior warning from the court, you have created a conflict with that attorney to such an extent that that attorney could not represent you in this case."

Blackwood said the conflict included threatening to sue Lander and serve him with a subpoena and being uncooperative with the judicial system.

Blackwood vowed to tell the jury about those things if Houston continued to imply that the court was the reason he was acting as his own attorney.

"I'm going to tell the jury the reason you don't have an attorney is entirely your fault," Blackwood said. "You want me to do that?"

"I want you to sit the jury in the box and tell them that you denied me a lawyer this morning and you put all this on me within 30 minutes," Rocky told the judge with a raised tone.

"You heard exactly what I said I would tell the jury,"  Blackwood responded. "You are either going to accept that explanation or you're going to sit down."

The police chase trial is unrelated to the May 2006 shootout that left Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along Mike Brown dead. Houston and his older brother, Leon, were charged with murder for their deaths. A jury acquitted Leon of all charges in November.

A state appeals court dismissed all charges against Rocky because Judge James "Buddy" Scott improperly dismissed the jury during his murder trial in 2008.

The police chase happened on Aug. 26, 2004. The state alleges Rocky fled in a pickup truck when a deputy attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. The chase started at the post office in Kingston and ended South of the River on Hwy. 58 when Rocky's pickup truck flipped.

Special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine described the chase for jurors during his opening statement. He said Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Langley was trying to attempt a box-in maneuver to end the chase when Rocky banged the back of his cruiser.

"He (Langley) starts taking hits from behind." Irvine said. "Mr. Houston is taking his truck and ramming it in the back of his cruiser."

Rocky told jurors that the state is carrying on a vendetta by trying him on charges that are almost six years old. He mentioned the previous murder trials where the state failed to get a conviction.

"They've tried three times to convict my family, and so far they can't do it," he said. "The reason why they couldn't do it is because there was reasonable doubt in the case."