Lawyers press for separate trials of Barnes and Henry in Pastor David Strong's slaying

Lawyers press for separate trials of Barnes and Henry in Pastor David Strong's slaying

November 8th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Brendan Barnes walks into Judge Don Poole's courtroom Monday. A hearing was held consider a motion to allow separate trials for Antonio Henry and Brendan Barnes. Both men are charged in the 2010 beating and stabbing death of a local pastor, David Strong.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

POLL: Do you think Henry and Barnes should receive separate trials?

Antonio Henry walks into Judge Don Poole's courtroom Monday. A hearing was held to consider a motion to separate the trials of Antonio Henry and Brendan Barnes. Both men are charged in the beating and stabbing death of a local pastor, David Strong, last year.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Attorneys for two defendants charged in the beating and stabbing death of a local pastor continued to argue Monday for their clients to receive separate trials.

In a hearing, Executive Assistant District Public Defender Karla Gothard, representing Brendan Barnes, 17, and Dan Ripper, representing Antonio Henry, 26, said their clients would blame each other if tried together.

"The state could almost sit back and let the two defendants convict each other," Ripper said.

But prosecutors argued that the pair should be tried together.

"I think they should be tried together. They did the crime together," said Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox.

Henry and Barnes, who are cousins, each face a possible life sentence if convicted of the first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery charges against them in connection with the death of David Strong.

Judge Don Poole told the defense attorneys to file arguments as to why redacted statements by their clients could not be used in a joint trial, instead of separating the pair.

Attorneys expect Poole to rule on the separate trials issue by the next scheduled hearing, set for Nov. 28, with two tentative trial dates of March 6, 2012, and April 3, 2012.

Gothard told Poole she will ask the court to include information from an October 2010 jailhouse interview with Henry by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston, who is prosecuting the case with Cox, and Ripper said they would not ask for that interview information to be introduced as evidence in the trials.

Ripper told Poole he would raise mental health concerns for Henry and request an evaluation.

"He has a significant history of mental health issues," Ripper said.

The pair told police they beat 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 the interview last year he "snapped" when Strong asked him to masturbate in front of him while 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 also have ATM footage of Henry withdrawing money from Strong's account.

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