Detective’s credibility in murder case causes motion for dismissal
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Oct 21, 2010 | 4985 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The credibility of the former chief detective who investigated the 1999 Valentine’s Day killings of three people prompted prosecutors to file a motion to dismiss the case for the third defendant who was charged. The capital murder charges against Michael Younger could now disappear.

Duff Brumley was terminated from the Cleveland Police Department on Aug. 24, after being placed on administrative leave June 23 for alleged policy violations.

Younger was charged along with Maurice Johnson and Twanna “Tart” Blair for the Feb. 14, 1999, alleged murders of Cayci Higgins, Dawn Rogers and Twanna Blair’s cousin, O.J. Blair, who all shared an apartment just off 20th Street N.E. — a short distance from Lee University.

Twanna Blair was the only survivor and she was eventually charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and aggravated perjury, according to reports.

Twanna Blair was originally believed to be a victim as well.

Records indicated the Twanna Blair trial “resulted in a hung jury and partial mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict as to any charge. In that case, this court granted a judgment of acquittal as to the most serious felonies, but a mistrial as to the lesser included offenses.”

According to paperwork filed Tuesday in Bradley County Criminal Court, prosecutors entered a motion to “Nolle Prosequi,” — or Latin for “unwilling to pursue.”

The motion noted “In the course of the current investigation of Mr. Brumley, three prior instances have been found which call into serious question Mr. Brumley’s credibility as a witness. The first involved a prior homicide investigation wherein Mr. Brumley testified under oath that he turned over recorded statements of a suspect directly to the assistant district attorney general; however, in subsequent interviews, Mr. Brumley gave inconsistent answers about who received the recorded statements.

“Ultimately, it was determined Mr. Brumley did not give the recorded statements directly to the ADAG as he claimed under oath,” according to the motion.

No indication was given as to which homicide case the alleged actions and questions arose around.

“The second instance involved a federal court case, U.S. vs. Tiffany Little, wherein magistrate Judge Carter in a written opinion detailed numerous inconsistent statements made by Brumley in his sworn testimony. These inconsistent statements included material facts that were important to a fair determination of the issues in the case and ultimately resulted in Magistrate Carter finding he could place no confidence in the accuracy of Mr. Brumley’s memory. The case was subsequently dismissed,” according to the motion.

Questions also arose during an earlier May trial of Younger which ended in mistrial.

A key witness, Anita Wilson, had given a statement to Younger’s defense counsel that “Mr. Brumley coerced her into claiming that Michael Younger confessed to the murders. Counsel for the defendant brought this to the state’s (prosecution) attention along with the fact that Ms. Wilson was held on a fugitive from justice warrant at Mr. Brumley’s direction. Subsequent investigation has found that Ms. Wilson was held on a warrant even though she was not wanted in another state. Her detention of a fugitive from justice charge was illegal. It certainly could be inferred that the illegal detention was intentional to give Mr. Brumley additional leverage in taking the coercive actions that Ms. Wilson now maintains happened,” according to the motion.

Wilson had reportedly given Lt. Mark Gibson of the Cleveland Police Department a statement in 2004 and according to the document, “in that statement, Ms. Wilson makes no mention whatsoever of Michael Younger confessing to the crimes in question.”

The motion also included information surrounding evidence after the May mistrial regarding Younger.

“Mr. Brumley returned several pieces of evidence to the Cleveland Police Department. Rather than return the items to the evidence room as he should have done, Mr. Brumley left the items in his office which was not locked. As such, the chain of custody is irrevocably broken as to those items. The state of Tennessee cannot in good faith call Mr. Brumley to the stand to testify in this matter as his credibility as a witness has been severely compromised,” the motion reads.

Contacted today, Brumley referred questions to his attorney who did not return a phone call.

One final reason for the motion was also described in the documents as the “most disturbing.”

“Finally and most disturbing is approximately 171 telephone calls between Mr. Brumley and Judge Amy Reedy,” according to the motion.

Reedy recused herself from the case in September after “the next of kin of the decedents have expressed their perception of animosity by the court toward the state prosecutor (Richard Fisher) 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 give them basis to reasonably question the impartiality of the court.”

Roy Higgins, Cayci Higgins father, Troy Parker, O.J. Blair’s father and Allen Roeennburg, Dawn Rogers’ father, filed affidavits with the court citing their concerns with the Reedy.

“While the state believes firmly that defendant Younger is responsible for the deaths of the victims in this case, Mr. Younger is entitled to due process and a fair trial. No matter what reasons are given for the telephone calls between the prosecution officer and the presiding judge, it does not absolve the state of its responsibility to see that Mr. Younger receives the due process afforded to him by the law. The absolute appearance of impropriety in these telephone calls is such that the state cannot in good faith subject Mr. Younger to further criminal prosecution in this matter. There is no remedy in the law that will remove the taint that has been placed on this case as a result of these telephone calls. Any verdict, for or against conviction, would be viewed with suspicion,” the motion stated.

A voice-mail message to Reedy was not returned by press time today.

The motion was signed by 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb.

Roy Higgins, father of Cayci Higgins, one of the victims in the case, said this morning that he and other family members believe the case should have gone forward.

“Here we nearly reach the end. It has been a long time we have suffered and all of the sudden, this happens,” said Higgins.

“I don’t believe any evidence would have been tainted,” he added.

An alleged “fight over money” which reportedly happened in Sweetwater at a party around 48 hours before the three were killed and Twanna “Tart” Blair was shot led to the arrests in the case which went cold. Younger was charged in the alleged murder in 2006 and is currently serving a sentence at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville. His sentence is expected to end in 2022, according to records.

Johnson was found guilty and is currently serving life without parole in Morgan County.

No indication has been given when the motion will be heard by special judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.