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Green trial to stay in county
Jun 16, 2004 12:00 am
Donald Ray Green II will stand trial in Wilson County Court for the charge of second-degree murder, a judge ruled Monday.
Green is charged in the June 2003 shooting death of Nicholas Grissim on Lebanon's Public Square. Frank Lannom, Green's attorney, filed a motion requesting that the trial be held elsewhere within the same judicial district, citing a series of public statements made by Lebanon police officials about the case.
Lannom added that the Lebanon Police Department's decision to shut down the Public Square was a "very high-profile" reason to move the trial to another county within the 15th Judicial District.
"I make no objection to the trial being held in any other county in this judicial circuit," Lannom said in arguments Monday afternoon.
Lannom called Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen to testify about the length of time the Public Square was shut down after the shooting, which is ongoing. Bowen said the shooting was only part of the reason the police decided to limit access to the Public Square at night.
"We had also had some reports of vandalism and theft," Bowen said from the stand.
But Judge John Wootten Jr. was unmoved by Lannom's arguments, ruling that the trial will go on as scheduled Aug. 3.
"Basically you are saying that there has been extensive coverage of this case, that's your point isn't it?" Wootten asked Lannom, which the attorney acknowledged, stating his opinion that the case had received "undue" coverage.
"This case does not rise to the level of State of Tennessee v. Tallent," Lannom said, referring to another highly publicized case slated to begin Monday. "We have had massive publicity for this county. We've had the center of the Town Square shut down immediately after the shooting. There has been a level of undue excitement over this case."
Prosecuting the case for the state, Assistant District Attorney David Durham argued that the print news coverage of the case was not played as heavily in Mt. Juliet.
"We get so many of our jury panels from west of Highway 109," Durham said. "We ought to give the people of Wilson County a chance to do their duty and that is to try criminal cases that occur in Wilson County."
"Every case rests on its own facts," Wootten said in announcing his decision. "I have handled several other high-profile cases in this county."
With that, Wootten denied Lannom's motion for change of venue, noting that if a jury cannot be seated, Lannom would be able to renew his request.
"We're going to try to get a jury," Wootten said. "But as always, (the motion) is subject to renewal and reconsideration."
Wootten did grant Lannom's motion to sequester the jury, noting that would mean longer courtroom sessions.
"It means we will go longer, later, Saturdays, whatever," he said.
Other defense motions were heard relating to the case, most of which Wootten denied, including a request to turn over to the state the personnel files of the four off-duty Lebanon police officers who happened to be first on the scene the night of the shooting.
Lannom requested the files be copied to the prosecution so that if there turned out to be any evidence favorable to his client's defense, that information would be available to his client under certain rules of evidence.
Lannom also requested information relating to the state of intoxication of any of the officers who initially found themselves on the scene as the incident occurred. Durham advised the court that such information does not exist.
"There was no investigation (of the impairment level) of the officers because they were off-duty at the time," Durham said.
"If the state has knowledge that a witness had taken drugs or alcohol that night, then I would like that provided to me so that I can prepare my defense," Lannom said. "I could impeach a witness with information about intoxication."
"I don't think any witness was asked if they were drunk or drugged that night," Durham said.
Lannom said that the essence of his case would be that Green shot in self-defense because he felt threatened by the actions of the victim, as well as the apparent actions of a man currently classified as a witness, Rocky Cox.
Lannom said that the defense's theory is that Cox was the instigator of the incident, only bringing Grissim into the confrontation after Cox and Green had exchanged words a few minutes earlier.
"Our defense is that the person making the threats was working in concert with the decedent, they were acting as one," Lannom said. "There was a direct reference to songs in which there were threats. The argument ensued and Mr. Cox came to the scene with (Grissim). Only after speaking with Cox did (Grissim) charge the defendant."
Lannom attempted to subpoena Cox to appear at Monday's hearing, but there was some question about the validity of the subpoena or its service, according to Durham.
Staff Writer Corinne Galeano can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15, or by e-mail at cori@email@example.com.