The attorney for one of two defendants in the brutal killing of a local pastor last October said he will request a separate trial for his client, Antonio Xavier Henry.
Henry, 26, was charged along with his cousin Brendan Barnes, 17, with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the beating and stabbing death of 55-year-old David Strong.
Police found Strong’s body Oct. 10 in his Glenwood Drive home after they stopped Henry driving the pastor’s vehicle. In police interviews Henry and Barnes have blamed each other for Strong’s death.
Henry’s attorney, Dan Ripper, told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole on Wednesday that he will file documents seeking to separate the trials.
After the hearing, Ripper said that he wants individual trials because where there are multiple defendants, each would be “sitting at trial pointing the finger at each other.”
Chief Assistant Public Defender Karla Gothard is one of the attorneys representing Barnes. She said she plans to request a separate trial for him.
She and Ripper said they expect prosecutors to try to block their moves because they could limit some testimony in the trials.
“I would anticipate that [the prosecution] would object to it,” Ripper said. “Sometimes the state objects to things just because the defense filed it.”
Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston declined comment on the case. No trial date has been set. Poole set the next hearing for Aug. 29.
Gothard said some of the delay has involved Barnes’ transfer from Juvenile Court to Criminal Court, which required multiple steps.
Because the defendants were indicted together, Henry’s charges had to wait until Barnes’ case was moved to Criminal Court, Ripper said.
In a preliminary hearing, a Chattanooga police detective testified that Barnes told him Henry held a knife to Barnes’ throat. Barnes said Henry made him hit an already-beaten Strong “some more times” with a blunt object to “prove myself,” according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.
In October 2010, Henry told the Times Free Press during jailhouse interviews that he beat Strong with a stick and Barnes stabbed Strong after the pastor made unwanted sexual advances to Henry.
The detective later contradicted part of Henry’s story, testifying that Henry told police Strong sometimes paid him to perform sex acts.
An autopsy report revealed that Strong’s killers beat his face, tied his wrists and ankles and stabbed him 29 times.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...