Hearing to set trial date in death of Chattanooga pastor David Strong delayed

Hearing to set trial date in death of Chattanooga pastor David Strong delayed

November 1st, 2011 by Todd South in News

Judge Don Poole moves a motion hearing for Brendan Barnes, right, and Antonio Henry to next Monday, Nov. 7, because Barnes' attorney was sick and could not attend. The two are charged with the October 2010 beating and stabbing death of Pastor David Strong.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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Two cousins charged in the beating and stabbing death of a local pastor last year will wait another week before learning when they will face a trial and whether they will be tried separately.

Antonio Henry, 26, and Brendan Barnes, 17, stood before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole on Monday morning for what would have been a hearing to set a trial date.

But Barnes' attorney, Executive Assistant District Public Defender Karla Gothard, was ill and could not attend the hearing, Poole said.

Since Henry's attorney, Dan Ripper, had filed a motion to sever the cases so that both men could have separate trials, Poole delayed the hearing so Gothard could be present for the arguments.

Poole told Ripper and Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston that a likely trial date will be March 6, 2012. Both told Poole they could be ready for a trial by that date.

Henry and Barnes each face a possible life sentence if convicted of the first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery charges against them. Prosecutors have not filed a notice to seek the death penalty.

The pair, who are cousins, told police that they beat pastor David Strong on Oct. 5, 2010, at his 404 Glenwood Drive home. But each blames the other for the 29 stab wounds found on the man's body during Strong's autopsy, according to court documents.

Henry told the Times Free Press in a jailhouse interview last year he "snapped" when Strong asked him to masturbate in front of him when he and Barnes were at Strong's home smoking marijuana.

An autopsy showed both alcohol and THC, marijuana's active ingredient, in Strong's blood.

Police arrested the cousins, one in Strong's car. Prosecutors have ATM footage of one of the defendants withdrawing money from Strong's account.

Ripper said in a previous interview that he's asking Poole to sever the cases because if the pair were tried together each of their defenses would violate constitutional rights.

They could not be protected from self-incrimination and still be able to confront their accuser, since each accuses the other.

Neither Barnes nor Henry appeared to communicate with the other during the 10-minute hearing Monday.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.