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By DAMON LAWRENCE
The judge who sat through two high-profile murder trials and numerous hearings involving Rocky and Leon Houston is stepping down.
Now the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is looking for a new judge to preside over the Houston murder case. Judge James “Buddy” Scott abruptly withdrew from the proceedings.
“He asked that that case be reassigned,” said David Haines, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts. When asked if Scott gave a reason for stepping down, Haines said, “No. We don’t have any details.”
Just this past Friday, Scott denied a motion to delay Leon Houston’s retrial, and affirmed from the bench that the trial would proceed as scheduled on March 16.
Now his departure will almost certainly cause a delay in the case.
“It would be tough to keep that date,” special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine said.
Houston and his younger brother, Rocky, who are being tried separately, are accused of killing Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along passenger Mike Brown.
Scott, a retired Anderson County judge, was assigned the case in 2006.
Scott’s withdrawal could also delay the brothers’ possible release on bond.
Both have been jailed for nearly three years.
Scott reduced their bonds in January but set more than a dozen conditions for their release.
Chief among them was electronic monitoring.
Scott said until he was satisfied the brothers could be tracked with a suitable monitoring service, he would not sign off on their release.
That matter was supposed to be discussed last Friday but was put off because Rocky’s lawyer, Randy Rogers, failed to show up at the hearing.
Haines said they plan to move quickly to find another judge.
“We will attempt to locate a judge who is available and can take the case,” Haines said. “Obviously, we want to get someone on the case as soon as possible and that will happen just as soon as we can find a judge who can commit to doing the work.”