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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Brothers Rocky and Leon Houston sit at the same defense table during pretrial hearings. That might not happen when the cases against them go to trial. Special prosecutor Robert “Gus” Radford has filed a motion to have a separate trial for each brother. Previous indications point to a joint trial.
The brothers are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony murder in the deaths of Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his friend, Mike Brown, on May 11, 2006. Brown was out on a ride-along with Jones when they were shot to death South of the River outside of Leon's home. Both brothers have pleaded not guilty. The trial is tentatively scheduled to start on July 14.
Rocky and Leon are scheduled to be in Roane County Criminal Court on Friday for a hearing to discuss what questions will be asked of potential jurors. According to court papers, the process of summoning potential jurors has already started.
Judge James “Buddy” Scott will now have to consider Radford's motion for separate trials. It's not clear what impact that will have on the start date.
In his motion to separate the cases for trial, Radford lists three reasons why he believes the move is necessary. Rocky and Leon have different attorneys and could employ different strategies at trial. If one tactic is presented by one brother, it could be harmful to the other.
Radford's motion also contends that because Rocky and Leon are brothers, the actions of one could easily be imputed to the other or reflect upon the other, which would create a problem of fairness.
At trial, Radford plans to introduce what he refers to in his motion as incriminating statements made by the Houston brothers. With separate trials, Radford could avoid issues relating to the admissibility of these statements.
“That the statements made by one defendant often implicates the other defendant and presents Bruton and Cruz issues and that the state is asking to sever the trials of these defendants to prevent this problem,” Radford's motion reads.