Judge delays trial on double-murder charges

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Travon Brown’s attorney on Monday convinced his trial judge to delay the proceedings for expert analysis of a state forensic report.
Brown’s double-murder trial was due to start today in the Lee County Justice Center, but Circuit Judge Jim Seth Pounds said a new appeals decision convinced him to continue the case.
Brown, 27, is accused in the 2011 shooting deaths of Cornelius Harris, 22, and Felicia Ruffin, 36, at a Chapman Street residence.
The defense likely will try to prove self-defense and cast doubts about the state’s evidence.
To do that, public defender Adam Pinkard told Pounds a new forensic report offered from the prosecutors required scrutiny by a defense expert.
Pounds agreed, saying the state’s explanation of new evidence contradicted what the defense was prepared for.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Neely told Pounds an addition to a forensics report, given to the defense two weeks ago, merely stated information widely available.
Evidence from the shooting scene raised questions, Neely noted, and the state sought an explanation from a pathologist.
Pinkard criticized the timing of the report addition and said its findings “changed my position completely on whether I needed an expert.”
The judge pointed to a conviction reversal last week from the Mississippi Supreme Court, which said the defense should have been allowed an expert witness.
He also noted another Lee County murder case, which ended in a mistrial after ballistics experts testified differently about the same evidence.
Pounds said he will set a new trial date for Brown.
In an unusual move, Brown spoke directly to Pounds about several motions he had written about his case.
Brown, clad in Lee County Jail garb, supported his request for an expert, whom he termed “critical” to contradict the state’s report.
A Lee County grand jury first indicted Brown on two counts of depraved heart murder, but the case was not prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, which saw a change in leadership between Brown’s arrest and the indictment.
In July 2012, Brown was indicted on “deliberate design” murder charges. He pleaded not guilty and the case was delayed twice for various reasons.
Pounds rejected most of Brown’s motions, including that his case was harmed by so great a passage of time and ineffective counsel before Pinkard.
Pinkard told the judge he’ll determine the likely cost of the expert or experts and report to the court.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com