published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Mistrial declared in Houston case and other news from areas around

Mistrial declared in Houston case

KNOXVILLE — A federal judge has declared a mistrial in a weapons case involving one of two brothers acquitted on charges of killing a Roane County, Tenn., deputy and the deputy's friend.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the judge declared the mistrial Wednesday before lawyers could present opening statements in the trial involving Rocky Joe Houston. U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves declared the mistrial after Houston's lawyer pointed out that the judge failed to strike one of the jurors that the defense wanted out.

Houston is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

He and his brother, Leon Houston, were acquitted of charges of killing Deputy Bill Jones and a friend of Jones', Mike Brown, during a 2006 shootout.


State Legislature work shut down

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Legislature canceled all activities Wednesday due to icy roads, and may not meet until this afternoon.

The House couldn't get enough members to Montgomery to meet Tuesday. The Senate got barely enough members to the Statehouse and had a busy afternoon.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said the Legislature would waste a meeting day Wednesday, but that would be best for safety reasons.

They are planning for the House and Senate to try to meet at 10 a.m. CST today, but Hubbard said it may be afternoon before roads are clear enough for enough members to arrive for a meeting.


Supreme court applications open

NASHVILLE — The Governor's Commission for Judicial Appointments is now taking applications to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

Justice Bill Koch has announced he is retiring on July 15 to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. Candidates from Middle or West Tennessee can apply through Feb. 21. Koch has served on the state's highest court since 2007.

The panel is scheduled to interview qualified applicants on March 5 in Nashville and then present Republican Gov. Bill Haslam with three finalists to choose from.

Haslam last month named Appeals Judge Holly Kirby to replace Justice Janice Holder, who isn't standing for another term in August.


Energy education camps scheduled

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation says applications are now available for energy education camps for teachers.

The program run by TDEC's Office of Energy Programs is designed to instruct teachers about the science of energy conservation in the classroom, and how to teach students to put that information into practice in their schools and communities.

The four-day sessions will be held in June and July at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Pikeville, Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville and Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan.

Teams that are selected to participate will be granted free meals and lodging, and a $400 stipend to pay for energy-related classroom materials.

Applications are due by April 11.

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