- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By DAMON LAWRENCE
Mike Brown was on the ground, paralyzed from the waist down when he received a shot to the head that sent his jaw bone flying down Barnard Narrows Road.
Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, a forensic pathologist, stuck to that story no matter how much defense attorney Randy Rogers tried to debunk her testimony on Thursday in Rocky Houston's double-murder trial.
“We know that when the jaw injury happens, he's definitely on the ground,” Mileusnic-Polchan said. “There's no question about it. The door is open, he's down. The only way for that piece of jaw to fly down the road is for him to be down.”
Mileusnic-Polchan conducted the autopsies on Brown and Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones. Brown, a former lawman, and Jones were good friends who often rode together when Jones was on patrol. They died in a shootout with brothers Rocky and Leon Houston on May 11, 2006.
Polchan used a mannequin and probes as she demonstrate how the wounds entered and exited each man's body.
Family members of the deceased men wept as she described their injuries.
The cross-examination of Mileusnic-Polchan sparked some of the most confrontational testimony the trial has seen so for. Although he was a civilian out on a ride-along, Brown was armed at the time of the shooting.
Rogers implied that Brown could have been standing up firing his pistol when he got hit with the shot that sent his jaw flying up the road.
“Are you telling me the same caliber weapon that you're saying caused that to go down the road that specific distance would not do it if he were standing up and shot at the exact same angle into his head?” Rogers said.
Mileusnic-Polchan, who speaks with a heavy foreign accent, said that wasn't medically possible because Brown was paralyzed from the waist down when that shot happened.
“If someone said when Mr. Brown was outside the car he was leaning across the hood of the car shooting in the direction to his right, can you refute that just because of your theory about how this bone fragment gets put down the road?” Rogers asked.
“What you are saying – that the bone fragment is on the road, and somebody else puts the feet in the car later?” Mileusnic-Polchan responded.
“I don't know that, do you?” Rogers said.
“I do. I mean,” Mileusnic-Polchan replied.
She was abruptly caught off by Rogers before she could finish the sentence.
“How do you know that? Were you there?” Rogers asked in a forceful tone.
The terse exchange sparked a smattering of laughter from the courtroom audience, which angered the judge and the prosecutor.
“Your honor I object to the tone of the question,” special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine said. “I also object that there's laughing in the audience. There's nothing humorous about this at all.”
Special Judge James “Buddy” Scott admonished the audience.
“Those who choose to make outburst here in the audience are going to leave the courtroom,” Scott said. “No more doing that. This is not a gallery for you to demonstrate your feelings.”
In regard to Rogers' assertion that someone could have tampered with the crime scene by moving Brown's body, Mileusnic-Polchan said it was impossible based on the evidence.
“It would be impossible to put him back in the car and maintain the pattern of blood and bleeding on the ground that was at the scene,” she said.
Rogers kept pressing, but Mileusnic-Polchan gave no credence to his theories.
“Again, for somebody to get over this body and reposition the right foot, that would be farfetched,” Mileusnic-Polchan said. “Now, could that be done and we cannot trust our law enforcement, that's your area to prove, not mine.”
The state rested its case after her testimony.
Scott plans to hear motions Friday morning before the defense starts putting on its case.
Jurors could get to hear from Rocky himself.
During his opening statement, Rogers hinted that his client may take the witness stand in his own defense.
Scott had another warning for the audience before stepping off the bench Thursday. He told the crowd that jurors get their evidence from the witness stand, not someone sitting in the audience nodding their head in agreement or disagreement with a person's testimony.
“Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about,” Scott said. “If you shake your head yes when somebody's testifying, you're a witness that you feel like that you agree with them.”
Anyone caught doing that will be removed from the courtroom, the judge warned.
“I'm keeping track of what people are doing out here, and that's my job to do,” Scott said. “If I feel like you're interfering with that, then out the door you go.”