The brothers Houston, as in Leon Houston and Rocky Joe Houston from Kingston, Tenn., shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy and his ride-along buddy in May 2006 when the two men attempted to serve an outstanding warrant to Rocky, who had failed to show up in court.
For killing 53-year-old Deputy Bill Jones and his friend, 44-year-old Mike Brown, in what was according to forensic investigators a gunfight (Jones was shot 19 times, Brown was shot 12 and Rocky was also wounded) the two men were indicted on first-degree murder chargers.
It seemed as though the brothers Houston were fated to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But, as we all know, in America, one is innocent until he/she is proven guilty in a court of law.
In this case, both men had their day in court, actually several days in court, and when the dust settled they were free men, as Knox News reported:
The brothers stood trial three times on double-murder charges in the shoot-out. A jury deadlocked in Leon Houston’s first murder trial in 2008, and a second jury found him not guilty on all charges a year later.
Rocky Houston’s only murder trial ended with a split verdict in December 2008, and Special Judge James “Buddy” Scott failed to declare a mistrial. The state Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Rocky Houston couldn’t be tried again.
How did the brothers Houston get off?
Prosecutors failed to establish who fired the first shots and without knowing this critical piece of information the jury could not convict, they couldn’t answer the fundamental question the entire case hinged on: was it murder or was it self-defense?
Obviously, the brothers Houston claimed the latter, contending they acted in self-defense because Deputy Jones and Brown “came to kill them.”
But that claim self-defense did not hold up in civil court. The brothers lost a wrongful death suit in April 2012, and Brown’s family was awarded $5 million in damages.
Now, this is where this case gets bizarre. Really bizarre – and sad.
A few weeks ago it was reported that the brothers Houston were displaying crime scene photos of the slain deputy and his friend on their property as a way to ward off potential trespassers.
“This ain’t nothing complicated,” Rocky Houston told local reports when they questioned him about the photos, which were legally obtained from the public record. “It’s real simple. We fear for our lives and our family’s lives, and we will continue to defend our lives.”
Although disgusted by the photos that appear at six different locations around the property, public officials said it wasn’t a crime to post them.
“It goes without saying that any public display on their own property of these photos in whatever manner by the Houstons is despicable and certainly runs counter to the Houstons’ claims of innocence,” District Attorney General Russell Johnson said in a news release.
The pictures were also uploaded on a Facebook page, but were taken down after A.G. Johnson alerted Facebook administrators about them.
Upon hearing the news of the photos, Chief Deputy Tim Phillips, who worked with Jones, said the following to local TV outlet WATE:
“To see anybody, let alone someone that you knew, someone who wears the same uniform and does the same job as you, it’s really disturbing to see that whether it’s on a billboard or whether it’s on the Internet. It’s awful.”
Regardless of what happened that day, on that point, I think we’d all agree. Your thoughts?
(Photo Credit: Tennessean)