Two Tennessee brothers who say they killed a deputy officer and his friend in self-defense have hung photos of the dead men’s bodies outside their property as a warning to other law enforcement officials.
Roane County Deputy Bill Jones, 53, and former police officer Mike Brown, 44, were shot to death on the property of Rocky and Leon Houston in 2006 while trying to serve an arrest warrant.
After two mistrials, both Houston brothers were acquitted of murder charges when prosecutors were unable to prove that they fired first at Jones and Brown.
The Houston brothers insist that the deputy and his friend showed up to kill them and opened fire without warning.
Six years later, the brothers still believe they are being targeted by corrupt police and local officials. They say the posters outside their property showing the dead men’s bodies, court documents and allegations of government corruption serve as a warning to the oustside world.
“This ain’t nothing complicated,” Rocky Houston told the Knoxville News Sentinel of the posters, which were erected in August. “It’s real simple. We fear for our lives and our family’s lives, and we will continue to defend our lives.”
Rocky Houston did not return the Daily News’ request for comment Wednesday.
The billboards, which rest along a rural road on the side of the Houstons’ property, have offended some residents and law enforcement officials who believe the photos are insensitive and too graphic for passers-by, including school children.
“To see anybody, let alone someone that you knew, someone who wears the same uniform and does the same job as you, it’s really disturbing to see that, whether it’s on a billboard or whether it’s on the Internet. It’s awful,” Chief Deputy Tim Phillips told WATE-TV.
But legally, the Houstons can display the photos, which became a matter of public record during their trials, District Attorney Russell Johnson said.
“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 Houstons’ claims of innocence,” Johnson said.
Rocky Houston, a former security guard for the U.S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tenn., said the signs won’t come down.
He accuses law enforcement officials of trying to plot to kill him and his brother.
“We are trying to report federal crimes, and we feel like our plea has fallen on deaf ears,” Houston told the News Sentinel. “We’re praying President Barack Obama will turn toward East Tennessee. I’m preparing a package for him right now.”
Rocky and Leon Houston maintain that Bill Jones and Mike Brown had come to kill them in 2006. Prosecutors said they were there to serve a warrant to Houston.
The brothers faced three criminal trials in connection with the crime.
Rocky Houston’s trial ended in a split verdict in 2008, but a mistrial wasn’t declared. An appeals court later said he couldn’t be tried again.
Leon Houston was found not guilty in 2009.
A Cumberland County jury in April found the Houstons liable for Brown’s death and awarded Brown’s parents $5.45 million in wrongful-death damages. The brothers have said they won’t pay, the News Sentinel reported.