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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Randy Rogers has made countless arguments on behalf of Rocky Houston over the last three years.
On Thursday, he argued why he should no longer have to represent Houston.
“I do not rise to toot my own horn,” Rogers said. “I rise to protect myself from the scurrilous allegations made by this man who I have spent many years now trying to help.”
Rogers said his desire to withdraw from the case stems from an interview Houston conducted with a TV station.
In the interview, Houston called Rogers a thief, a liar and a coward.
“And he is wrong in all three respects, but most particularly that I am a coward,” Rogers said. “I cannot effectively represent this man.”
Special Judge David Hayes granted his motion to withdraw.
“He is off the case,” Hayes said.
As soon as Hayes uttered those words, Rogers walked out of the courtroom.
Houston’s older brother, Leon, is also without an attorney. Hayes granted Leon’s request to have defense attorney James Logan removed from his case.
Logan didn’t object to being removed.
“Under the present circumstances there is an inability to communicate,” Logan said.
“Our communication has broke down,” Leon agreed.
That’s just one of numerous reasons Leon gave for wanting Logan off the case.
“I feel like I have to have his testimony to prove ongoing insurance fraud, ongoing conspiracy to interfere with insurance fraud and establish motive why these people tried to kill me and my brother,” Leon said.
Rocky and Leon are accused of killing Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown. Brown was out on a ride-along with Jones when they were killed in a shootout outside of Leon’s home on Barnard Narrows Road on May 11, 2006.
The state claims Rocky and Leon massacred the men with a barrage of bullets when Jones showed up to serve an outstanding warrant on Rocky.
The brothers claim they acted in self-defense after Jones and Brown pulled up shooting. All four men fired weapons in the shoot-out.
Leon was tried in July 2008, but a mistrial was declared after the jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.
Rocky’s trial last December ended in confusion. He was found not guilty for the first-degree premeditated murder of Brown.
He was also found not guilty on several lesser charges, but former Houston judge James “Buddy” Scott ruled the verdicts on the lesser charges did not count because the jury failed to follow proper instructions.
The future of Rocky’s case hinges on a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals. The state wants to retry Rocky, but he argues a retrial would constitute double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Rogers appealed to the higher court on his behalf. Hayes said the case is stayed until the appeals court makes a decision.
Leon’s retrial was scheduled to start Aug. 10, but Hayes ordered a delay because special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine is having health problems.
Irvine told the court that he’s been battling Bell’s palsy and wouldn’t be ready for trial next month.
Hayes set Nov. 2 as the new
Hayes urged Leon to get an attorney. Leon said he’d try.
“If worse comes to worst, I’ll represent myself,” he said.
Hayes advised him not to, but added that with or without an attorney, the case is going to trial Nov. 2.
“You’re on notice that it will not be continued,” Hayes said.
The Houstons have had difficult relationships with their attorneys throughout the case. The brothers have previously sought to get rid of their lawyers, and in recent weeks stated displeasure with their representation.
After Rogers finished stating his discourse and reasons for wanting off the case, Rocky stood to respond. Hayes told him it was not necessary.
“If he wants off and you agree that he wants off, then there’s not a lot of reason for argument about it,” Hayes said. “I’ll agree that he’ll come off, so that’s the end of that.”
Hayes also admonished Rocky for the comments he made about Rogers on TV.
“I think you’ve made a bad move by making those statements on TV,” Hayes said. “I’ll tell you this Mr. Houston: it is difficult for any human being to turn on television and watch themselves being called a thief, a coward and a liar. Now we’re not going to debate that, but where I’m from those are fighting words.”
“Yes, but if the shoe fits you got to wear it,” Rocky responded.
“But you don’t tell them that on TV,” Hayes said. “You tell them that to their face.
“You were wrong on that one, I’ll tell you that Mr. Houston,” Hayes added. “You were dead wrong. You don’t use the news media to make personal attacks on individuals. You will learn that, too, someday.”
Rocky has more problems on the horizon. Irvine said he will be filing a motion to send him back to jail for numerous violations of his bond conditions. A hearing in the matter is scheduled for Aug. 7.
Irvine said he wouldn’t be seeking to send Leon back to jail.
“Clifford Leon Houston has had a few problems with payments and going some places he’s not authorized,” Irvine said. “But by far, Mr. Rocky Houston has done most of the violations.”
The brothers have stopped paying for electronic monitoring, also a requirement of their release. The monitoring company plans to cut off service on July 31 for nonpayment.
The brothers say the monitoring is costing them $400 a month, and they can’t afford to make the payments.
They want Hayes to modify the bond conditions, so that electronic monitoring is no longer a requirement. That issue will also be taken up at the Aug. 7 hearing.
Rocky and Leon intend to represent themselves at the hearing. Even though Hayes found them competent to do so, he urged both to seek professional counsel. Hayes, who is from West Tennessee, also reminded the Houstons that they are on house arrest.
“I’ve been in Roane County three times, and all three times I’ve been watching you on TV,” Hayes told Rocky.
“Is that against a law of any kind?” Rocky said.
“It’s against the law when you’re roaming out of your house arrest,” Hayes responded.
The Houstons gave an impromptu press conference in the courthouse hallway after the hearing.
“I’ve not done nothing to have my bond revoked,” Rocky said.
The brothers didn’t express any regrets about their lawyers being gone.
“Sometimes you have to cut loose and put your faith in God,” Leon said. “That’s what we’ve done here today.”