Deadlines set for August in capital case

Published 10:46 am Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lacy Cordell

A pair of men facing murder charges in connection with the 2014 death of a Roan Mountain man appeared in Criminal Court on Wednesday morning for a hearing pertaining to their case.

Anthony Lacy, 18, and Demetrice Cordell, 20, both of Roan Mountain, appeared before Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street.

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Street set a deadline of August 14 for the filing of motions in the case and a deadline of August 28 for the filing of responses to any motions.

Street said he would rule on those motions when Lacy and Cordell next appear in court on Sept. 4.

Because the Tennessee Supreme Court tracks the progress of capital cases, Street also ordered the defense to file a status update under seal with the court by August 5 to update the court on the status of expert witnesses and progress being made on the case.

“We can keep track of this as we go along, but not require everyone to come to court every other month so you can do the work you need to do,” Street said to the defense lawyers. Attorneys Jim Bowman and Gene Scott have been appointed by the court to represent Lacy and District Public Defender Jeff Kelly was appointed to represent Cordell.

The case became a capital case after the state filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty against Lacy. As part of that filing, District Attorney General Tony Clark cited two specific aggravating circumstances leading his office to seek the death penalty.

Clark’s notice stated that one aggravating factor was the fact that Lacy was “previously convicted of one or more felonies, other than the present charge, whose statutory elements involve the use of violence to the person.” He also noted that Lacy has picked up two pending felony charges for his alleged involvement in altercations in the Carter County Detention Center since his arrest on the murder charge.

In one case Lacy is charged with attempted first degree murder after he allegedly attacked a corrections officer with a mop handle. The officer was hospitalized with serious injuries. The second incident involves a charge of aggravated assault in which Lacy is alleged to have assaulted another inmate, leaving the man lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the cell they shared.

Lacy has not yet been convicted in either of those cases, and Clark explained in his notice that should no qualifying felony conviction result from those cases, this aggravating circumstance will be removed from the notice to seek the death penalty. Those additional charges were also the subject of discussion during Wednesday’s court hearing.

The second aggravating factor Clark cited was the fact Vance’s death is alleged to have occurred during a robbery.

The district attorney’s office plans to try Lacy on the lesser charges first. If Lacy is convicted, it would create a record that could not only be used to help the state make a case for the death penalty, but for sentence enhancement if the death penalty is not given.

“We understand the defense will have a lot to do between now and the trial date for the murder case,” Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks said. “We feel, in the meantime, we can address some of these other matters.”

While some may question trying the latter offenses first, Street said state law was clear in allowing the state to determine the order the cases would be tried.

One of Lacy’s attorneys, Jim Bowman, told the court if the state insists on trying the latter offenses first, the murder case should be given a special consideration.

“We do have a lot to do in this case, perhaps more so than in other cases,” he said. “I think it would be appropriate for the court to appoint separate counsel on those other cases rather than divert our attention away from the capital case.”

Street said he would take Bowman’s request into consideration at the Sept. 4 court hearing.

Bowman also presented another request to the court, asking that Lacy remain held locally pending his trial to make it easier for his attorneys to visit with him.

Lacy was previously transferred to the Tennessee Department of Corrections for housing following the alleged attack on the corrections officer in the Carter County Detention Center.

“It will seriously impact our ability to effectively represent our client with him in Nashville,” Bowman said, adding he has concerns with Lacy being housed in the Carter County Detention Center. “We think it would be prudent for him to be housed elsewhere in this area.” TDOC’s Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City or another county jail would be acceptable, Bowman said.

While Brooks noted the housing concern was valid, he said any facility Lacy was transferred to would need to be made aware of his behavioral history while in the CCDC.

Street also cited concerns with Lacy’s alleged prior behavior.

“I have a problem with telling a local facility they must house a defendant in a capital case who has a history of violence in a correctional facility,” Street said, adding he would not order another county to hold Lacy. However, he said, if Lacy’s attorneys could work out an agreement with another county, he would consider approving the transfer.

Lacy was returned to Carter County in preparation for Wednesday’s hearing about two weeks ago to allow his lawyers to have time to meet with him, Street said, adding in that time, he had received no reports of any additional incidents involving Lacy.

Street ordered Lacy be held in the CCDC to await trial, but said he would change that order and return Lacy to the TDOC if any more incidents occurred.

“In short, if you behave you will be able to stay here where you will have access to your attorneys and expert witnesses,” Street told Lacy. “If you do not, I will move you back to Nashville.”