Judge to rule if Antonio Henry and Brendan Barnes will get separate trials in slaying of Pastor David Strong

Judge to rule if Antonio Henry and Brendan Barnes will get separate trials in slaying of Pastor David Strong

October 4th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Sixteen-year-old Brendan Barnes, left, and his cousin Antonio Henry, 25, are charged in the death of Rev. David Strong.

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A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge will rule if two cousins, charged in the beating and stabbing death of a local pastor, should receive separate trials.

"Both of these two individuals will be pointing at the other," attorney Dan Ripper said Monday during a court hearing.

Ripper represents Antonio Xavier Henry, 26, and had filed a request that the cases be severed, granting separate trials for Henry and his cousin Brendan Barnes, 17, who is represented by Executive Assistant District Public Defender Karla Gothard.

The cousins have told police and the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they beat Pastor David Strong, but each blames the other for the 29 stab wounds that a medical examiner says killed the 55-year-old man in his Glenwood Drive home.

Police found Strong's body Oct. 10, 2010, but think he was killed days earlier.

The pair left the Glenwood Drive home in Strong's vehicle and then withdrew about $600 from the pastor's bank account after his death, police said.

Ripper told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole that Henry and Barnes implicate each other as the killer of Strong in statements to police and the Times Free Press.

After the hearing, Ripper said that could set up "mutually antagonistic defenses," pitting separate constitutional rights -- the right against self-incrimination and the ability to confront your accuser -- at odds.

But District Attorney Bill Cox argued during the hearing that the "mere passing blame from one defendant to another is not enough to establish antagonistic defenses."

Ripper also had asked for redacted transcripts of statements from both defendants that the prosecution plans to use at trial and if the attorneys would use information from a jailhouse interview Henry granted the Times Free Press last year.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston said they would not use information from the newspaper, which is shielded under Tennessee law.

Poole ordered the transcribed statements be entered into the court record by Oct. 24, one week before the next scheduled hearing on Oct. 31.

He told both sides to be open to set a trial date for some time in February or March.

Barnes' transfer from Juvenile Court and delays in evidence processed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab have held up the case.

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