Knoxville (WVLT) - Even in this era when more than 95 percent of criminal cases are resolved without a trial, 2008 is set to be a year of high-profile jury trials in our region.
Volunteer TV court reporter Rob Pratt, who's a lawyer himself, has more on some of the big cases that juries will likely decide this year.
One year ago this weekend, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were car-jacked, tortured, and murdered. Four people are charged with first degree murder. George Thomas, Lemaricus Davidson, Vanessa Coleman, and Letalvius Cobbins have separate trial dates set this year. The state has already filed notice to seek the death penalty against Cobbins, who's supposed to be tried in May.
The Houston Brothers, Rocky and Leon, are accused of murdering Roane County Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along partner Mike Brown in 2006. Prosecutors say it was an ambush, but Rocky Houston says he and his brother are victims of a conspiracy.
"Multiple counts of extortion with Thomas Austin, jury tampering, five hundred counts of mail fraud, and the United States Justice Department has got to come in here," Houston said.
In Knoxville, prosecutors say Eric MClean killed his wife Erin's alleged teen-aged lover, Sean Powell, in March 2007. She met him when she was a student teacher at Knox West High. The first Grand Jury refused to indict on first degree murder, handing down a second degree murder charge instead. In December, prosecutors went back to the Grand Jury to get the first degree murder indictment they wanted all along.
"I'm just outraged. It's just desperation by the attorney general's office. They found a Grand Jury, a second one, who knows what gem they spun to get the indictment," McLean's attorney, Bruce Poston, said.
McLean's trial is set for September.
With crowded court dockets and the constant threat of delays, anything can happen, but it's hard to imagine that 2008 will pass without most or maybe even all of these cases going to the jury.
The defendants in each of the three murder cases are due in court over the next few weeks. Scheduling decisions are expected to be made then.