Maurice Johnson, the first of the three defendants, was convicted and is serving three life sentences.
According to a memorandum and Recusal motion filed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office in June, “Recusal is a matter addressed by the sound discretion of the trial court. On behalf of the next of kin of the three victims, the state has filed a motion for recusal with the reasons set forth in the motion.”
The memorandum further stated, “The next of kin of the defendants have expressed their perception of animosity by the court toward the state prosecutor that has affected the trial of Twanna Blair and reasonably could affect the trial of Michael Younger and the retrial of Blair. The open hostility observed by these witnesses to the proceeding gives them basis to reasonably question the impartiality of the court.”
Roy Higgins, who is Cayci Higgins’ father; Troy Parker, who is O.J. Blair’s father; and Allen Roenneburg, who is Dawn Rogers’ father, filed affidavits with the court citing their concerns with the presiding judge.
Cayci Higgins, Rogers and Blair were slain Feb. 14, 1999, inside their apartment located near 20th Street N.W.
Twanna Blair, who was the only survivor, was charged initially with three counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and aggravated perjury, according to reports.
Her trial “resulted in a hung jury and partial mistrial.” The court granted a judgment of acquittal to the most serious felonies and a mistrial to the lesser included offenses.
Younger’s trial in May also ended in a mistrial.
The court documents allege during a pre-trial hearing filed May 3, Rules of Evidence 404 which deals with the “general character evidence of a defendant,” that “improper testimony was not only elicited by the State’s question; but the specific response that the defendant was a ‘drug dealer’ was suggested by General Rush’s (Assistant District Attorney General Paul Rush) improper leading questions.”
Reedy denied a motion from the defense to dismiss the first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery case against Younger, but did accept an oral motion for mistrial.
Pretrial motions filed May 3 limited admissibility of certain evidentiary testimony, according to documents.
Contained within the order dated May 3, Reedy ruled it admissible testimony about an alleged “fight over money” which reportedly happened in Sweetwater at a party around 48 hours before the murders.
The Recusal motion cited, “the contentious history between the judge and the prosecuting attorney provides a reasonable basis for questioning the reasonable ability of the trial judge to be fair and impartial.”
The prosecuting attorney for the case is Assistant District Attorney General Richard Fisher.
In a Sua Sponte Order signed by Reedy on Monday, “Before and after comments of ADAG Fisher were made in court on Aug. 20, 2010, many phone calls and very specific comments landed upon this court and this court’s family which have been shared by family with this court and have caused this court to raise this issue Sua Sponte.”
Sua Sponte is Latin for, “Of one’s own will.”
“The cumulative effect of the actions of the state of Tennessee in repeatedly violating the court’s pretrial discovery orders, Rule 404 rulings and Brady violations cause this court to form great concern that either the state is acting at all costs to gain advantage in this motion, or is acting recklessly and without regard for the proper and orderly administration of justice in this matter,” according to Reedy’s Recusal.
Reedy went on to say, “Therefore, using the objective standard and all facts known to the court, this court finds recusal is warranted. As the court has previously commented, it is the court’s responsibility to represent the impersonal authority of the law and not become personally embroiled with the parties and personalities of those involved in the trial process.”
Chancellor Jerri Bryant will find a judge to preside over the case, according to court officials.