DA: Facebook posting of fatal shooting victims is "the poorest of taste"

11:49 PM, Aug 30, 2012   |    comments
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  • Rocky & Leon Houston arrested for contempt of court.
  • Rocky Houston
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Authorities don't know why crime scene pictures of two murder victims are on display in the front yard of two brothers once charged in the killings.

"It's pretty upsetting for the people who knew Bill and knew Mike and knew the situation," said Roane County chief deputy Tim Phillip said after the discovery of the pictures of former co-worker, Bill Jones, and Jones' ride along passenger Mike Brown.

The victims were found shot to death after a 2006 shootout with brothers Rocky and Leon Houston. After years of legal battles in court, the Houstons were not convicted in Jones and Brown's murders.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson said in a press release even though photos showing the victims following the shooting are public record, he called the displays, "the poorest of taste."

Four pictures are posted on a Facebook page belonging to a woman claiming to be a friend of the Houstons. Those same pictures are near of Rocky Houston's home in Ten Mile.

"It's been out there for 20 hours, and there's no telling who made copies of those pictures. It seems like it can be an ongoing thing," said Chief Phillips.

10News spoke to Rocky Houston Thursday afternoon about the photos. He wouldn't confirm nor deny if he posted the photos on this sign or on Facebook, but said he would leave the display up.

He claimed his reasoning is to show his anger with the justice system.

D.A. Johnson believed the Houstons did have legal access to the photos as part of their defense during the 2010 trial. However, he added in a statement, "...any public display on their own property of these photos in whatever manner by the Houstons is despicable and certainly runs counter to the Houstons' claims of innocence..."

For Chief Phillips, anger and sadness surfaces from the loss of his co-worker, thanks to these photos.

"Somebody who stooped to the level they did to place pictures of deceased people," he said.

The District Attorney's office is looking into a possible investigation with TBI, as they look into any legal wrongdoing from the display.

Reporter's note: 10News will not show the photos, as respect to the family.

Previous story

District Attorney General Russell Johnson is reacting strongly to the posting of crime scene photos of the dead bodies of Bill Jones and Mike Brown on Facebook.

Jones was a Roane County Sheriff's deputy. Brown was a friend of Jones' who was on a ride along with him the night the two were killed in a shootout with Rocky and Leon Houston.  The brothers were not convicted in the shootings.

A woman calling herself a friend of the Houston brothers has posted four pictures on her Facebook page that show Jones and Brown after they were killed.  Jones is still seated in his patrol car while Brown is lying on the ground next to the passenger seat.  General Johnson also says the photos were also posted on a sign on the Houston property.

Those photos have since been removed from Facebook.  We do not know if they were taken down by the woman who posted them or if Facebook removed them.

10News has the photos, and we have decided not to post those photos at this time.

General Johnson says his office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has received a number of calls about the photos from "concerned individuals."

Despite the concerns, it appears no laws have been broken.  In a press release, General Johnson says, "Under Tennessee state statute the contents of a TBI investigative file are strictly confidential. However, when these photos were introduced by both of the special prosecutors and the defense attorneys during any of the three criminal trials in Roane County or by the plaintiff's attorney during the civil trial in Cumberland County, they then became public record unless the file was ordered sealed by the presiding judge."

None of the files were ever sealed.

General Johnson goes on to say the photos and the TBI investigative file were provided to the Houstons as part of the mandatory 'discovery' process during the criminal trials.   So, investigators assume that the Houstons are responsible for releasing the photos.

General Johnson says if anyone else got the photos through any means other than a lawful request, they may be in violation of the confidentiality law. Any violation of the TBI confidentiality statute is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $50 and up to thirty days in jail.

"I have talked to TBI about this matter and have informed Assistant District Attorney Ken Irvine (the special prosecutor who tried two of the criminal cases) about this issue. We have also contacted the Jones and Brown families so that they would know about the situation before stumbling across the photos on the Internet," General Johnson said. "Members of my office have contacted Facebook in an attempt to have the images removed."

General Johnson stated that he has requested TBI to assist in an investigation to determine if there has been any violation of criminal laws.

"Regardless of whether this is a crime or not, it is the mother of all understatements to say that the posting of the pictures on Facebook is in the poorest of taste. Furthermore, it goes without saying that any public display on their own property of these photos in whatever manner by the Houstons is despicable and certainly runs counter to the Houston's claims of innocence of the intentional homicides of Bill Jones and Mike Brown."
 
" Over two months ago," General Johnson continued, "Rocky Houston was provided the opportunity (after Rocky had actually made the written request) to meet with the Roane County Grand Jury to testify about his 'conspiracy theories' involving local government officials. Rocky flat out failed to show or produce any evidence. That is because he has none. Instead of pursuing his complaints through the legal system he chose to display these sensitive and dehumanizing photos on a 'billboard' on the Houston property speaking volumes about Rocky's character."

General Johnson says he sympathizes with the Jones and Brown families "in having to endure this latest 'attack' on the memory of their deceased family members."

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