Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TOP STORY >>Bondsmen face murder charges

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

As the corruption trial of Bobby Junior Cox and Jay and Kelly Campbell raced toward chaos Monday, Special Judge John Cole applied the brakes, granting attorney John Wesley Hall’s motion for a mistrial in Cox’s case and severing Cox’s trial from that of the Campbells.

Cole also disqualified Prosecutor Lona McCastlain from trying Cox, ruling that it would be a conflict of interest.
On Friday, Ron “Bear” Tyler testified that Cox had solicited him to kill McCastlain and star witness Ron Adams and also to burn down her house and the Lonoke County Courthouse.

Hall argued successfully that if McCastlain was an intended murder victim, she should not be prosecuting the man alleged to have ordered her hit.

McCastlain informed lawyers for both Cox and fellow bail bondsman Larry Norwood that she intended to charge them with solicitation of murder.

According to Hall’s motion, McCastlain emailed him the following on Saturday afternoon:

“I want to inform you that I intend to file charges against Bobby Cox for solicitation to commit capital murder. The State Police will be putting an affidavit together for that. Also, I will file a motion to revoke bond on Monday or Tuesday.”

“Mrs. McCastlain now paints herself as a victim and prosecutor in the same role,” Hall argued.

No new trial or hearing date has been set for Cox, who sat on the sidelines through the first month of testimony, only to be thrust into the spotlight late last week by Tyler’s testimony.

That testimony was in a hearing and the jury was out of the room, but McCastlain had intended to call him as a witness and the defense feared it would ruin the opportunity for Cox or the Campbells to get a fair trial.

Hall said Tuesday that with McCastlain disqualified, Cole took the next logical step, which was to declare a mistrial.
Hall said that McCastlain also called counsel for bail bondsman Larry Norwood over the weekend to say that Norwood would be charged with solicitation to commit capital murder.

Hall speculated that Cox and Norwood might be tried together.

McCastlain said Tuesday that once the state police investigation is completed, it would be up to a special prosecutor to decide whether to proceed with the solicitation to commit murder charges.

So far, the only known evidence of the alleged murder and arson scheme comes from Tyler, who defense attorneys say is unreliable and a known liar.

Hall, who will no longer sit elbow to elbow at the defense table with Patrick Benca and Mark Hampton, attorneys for the Campbells, says his client has a huge stake in Benca’s argument this morning for a directed verdict.

If Cole rules there is not enough evidence to find Jay Campbell guilty of running a continuing criminal enterprise, then there is no way Cox could be guilty of participating in that enterprise.

Cox currently is charged with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and with intimidation of a witness.