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By DAMON LAWRENCE
The first-degree murder trial of Howard Davidson is scheduled to begin today, Sept. 17, at the Roane County Courthouse.
Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood will be presiding. Davidson is accused of shooting Michael Fair to death in May 2005.
The trial could last three days.
Criminal defense attorney Patrick Cooley is serving as a special prosecutor in the case.
He was hired by Fair’s mother, Betty Woody, to assist the local district attorney general’s office in the prosecution of Davidson.
Prosecutors say the alleged murder was caught on videotape, which they have as evidence. Defense attorney Michael Ritter has acknowledged the existence of a video, but said there are surrounding factors that a jury needs to hear.
During a brief phone conversation last week, Ritter said he was ethically obligated to not discuss his defense strategy. However, he did say he hopes to seat a jury that will consider all the facts.
The Davidson case has been filled with twist and turns. Ritter sought to have Cooley disqualified earlier this year, claiming Cooley had a conflict of interest. Blackwood ruled against Ritter, allowing Cooley to remain as a member of the prosecution.
Davidson was originally indicted on second-degree murder. Prosecutors were ready to offer him a plea deal in March 2007, but the deal was withdrawn after Fair’s family objected.
“We had a negotiated plea agreement, came here on the day of trial, the jury was called off, all the witnesses were called off and they said the deal was off,” Ritter said.
Months later a grand jury returned a superseded indictment against Davidson, which elevated the charges to first-degree murder.
Davidson still could have avoided trial, but he rejected a plea deal this past July. The chances of a last-minute settlement seem very unlikely now. Blackwood told all the parties during the July hearing that he won’t be entertaining any further plea deals.
Woody, Fair’s mother, said she didn’t mind that the case was going to trial.