Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood issued a ruling in Bradley County Criminal Court earlier in the day ordering prosecutor Richard Fisher to recuse himself from the “Valentine’s Day murder” case, and the re-indictment of one of its co-defendants.
The case involved Michael Younger, one of the co-defendants accused of the 1999 execution-style slayings of Donna Rogers, Orienthal “O.J.” Blair and Cayci Higgins in a Cleveland apartment complex.
In a judiciary timeline filled with twists and turns, Younger’s first murder trial ended in a mistrial in 2009.
Fisher obtained a new indictment against Younger in March and then resigned as an unpaid, part-time district attorney.
The prosecutor was named to serve pro tem (on a temporary basis), upon the request of current 10th District Attorney General Steven Bebb who cited a personal conflict of interest because of past clashes with the judge and a former detective involved in the case.
Those conflicts throughout the AG’s office apparently weighed on the mind of Blackwood when he made his ruling.
Younger’s attorney, Susan Shipley, noted Fisher and other prosecutors had been ordered by Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy to report their actions to the Board of Professional Responsibility.
Blackwood was quoted in his ruling calling the case “a mess.”
That is when Crump got the call.
“I got a phone call yesterday afternoon [Tuesday] telling me that Jon Kerry Blackwood had appointed me [to the case] on a pro tem basis,” Crump said. “I have to be honest ... the first thing I’m going to have to do is figure out if any of the conflicts will ultimately be imputed to me by me joining the office.”
He said he did not have enough familiarity with the case to know “exactly which direction we’re going.”
“The matters I’ve been brought up to speed on are those inside the [DA’s] office,” Crump said.
He said he was hoping to find out more in discussions today.
Crump said his assumption at present is he will handle the case at least until he is sworn into office.
“Once that happens, I have to figure out what the conflicts are,” he said. “I’m going to have to sit down and talk with Steve [Bebb] and figure out which assistants have potential conflicts, and whether or not any of those would keep me from serving or would create some other issue.”
Crump said this type of appointment does happen occasionally, but there is usually some advance notice the case is being redirected — a luxury that was not afforded this time.
“Fortunately, to my knowledge, there is not a trial date set. So, I’m at least pushed under that perspective,” he said. “I’ll certainly be sitting down with the files, probably starting next week.”
Crump said he would be making inquiries with the Attorney General’s Office and with the Board of Professional Responsibility “to figure that mess out.”
“I don’t want to do anything that violates the rules of professional conduct,” he said. “By the same token, I want to abide by the ruling of the judge and fulfill it to the best of my ability. I have to make sure those conflicts do not attach to me. If they don’t, we’ll sit down and figure out how to go from there.”