Retrial denied in Reginald Clark slaying on Greenwood Drive

Retrial denied in Reginald Clark slaying on Greenwood Drive

August 29th, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Hamilton County medical personnel remove the body of Reginald Clark, 37, from 1644 Greenwood Road in Chattanooga.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Attorneys for convicted murderers Roderick "Poo Poo" Bates and Emmett "D Baby" Jones argued Thursday morning that their clients deserve a new trial.

In January, a jury convicted Bates and Jones of killing 37-year-old Reginald Clark after an argument at a nightclub. According to police and witnesses, the two men entered Clark's Greenwood Drive home and opened fire before Clark could reach his own pistol.

Bates and Jones were sentenced to life in prison.

On Thursday, attorneys Clancy Covert and Lee Ortwein told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman their clients should get new trials because the prosecution's witnesses were unreliable. Ortwein, who represents Jones, also argued Wednesday that Steelman should not have let prosecutors tell the jury that witnesses had identified Jones as the shooter by looking at a photograph of him.

When interviewing the witnesses, an investigator showed them a mugshot of Jones from his recent prison stint. Ortwein says this manipulated the witnesses into thinking the man in the jail jumpsuit must have committed the crime.

Prosecutor Lance Pope argued that Ortwein's point about the picture doesn't matter. He told Steelman on Wednesday that the witnesses already knew Jones before the shooting.

"This was a confirmation, not an identification," Pope said. "I don't think there was a chance of misidentification."

Steelman denied both defendants' motions for a new trial, though he noted the decision was merely procedural. The attorneys needed to make their points in Hamilton County court to "preserve their arguments." Now they will present their appeals to a higher court.

Concerning the issue of unreliable witness statements, Pope argued Wednesday that those problems had been dealt with during the trial in January. After the October 2011 crime, Larinder Lewis told the police in an audio recording that she saw Bates and Jones standing shoulder to shoulder, shooting Clark.

"I seen fire coming from both the guns," she said. "They can't say self-defense. They came right out and killed that man in cold blood."

But during the trial in January, Lewis said she didn't remember what happened the night Clark died. Pope argued that Lewis was scared to testify, knowing she might face retribution.

After a jury convicted Bates and Jones seven months ago, the two ripped their shirts and cursed at the jury and the judge.

On Thursday, Jones again argued with the judge. After his attorney made arguments on his behalf, Jones shouted at Steelman, asking if he could make his own points. The judge said Jones could not say anything because his lawyer did not ask him to testify.

"I want to speak for myself!" Jones yelled.

Instead, Steelman told a bailiff to take the cursing man from the courtroom.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.