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Jury selection under way in double-murder trial

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Clayton County Chief Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons held an attorney in contempt of court, and ordered that she be jailed Monday, after the attorney said she was not prepared to represent her client in a murder trial.

The attorney, Loletha Denise Hale, told the court she was not prepared for trial, because she had not been properly compensated for the time she had already spent on the case, according to a court order.

Simmons ordered her to serve 10 days in the Clayton County Jail. Hale may be released from custody upon posting a bond of $5,000, the court order states. Monday evening, the lawyer was still being held, according to jail officials.

Hale was representing Tyrone Vincent Brown, 27, who is one of three co-defendants accused of the March 2006 shooting deaths of two men at the Cobblestone Flats apartments in Ellenwood.

"The Court finds that the actions of Ms. Hale have impaired the Court's ability to carry out its business and constitutes contempt of court," Simmons said in the court order. He removed Hale from the case and ordered that new counsel be appointed for Brown. Brown's case was continued until new counsel can be appointed for the trial, according to the court document.

Brown has been in jail since March 29, 2006, the order states. "The case has been set for trial on many prior occasions," Simmons said in the order. "It was specially set for trial two months ago, and a continuance was requested by all parties and granted by the Court, so that a newly-discovered witness, located in Boston, Massachusetts, could be interviewed," Simmons said.

When Hale appeared in court Monday, she moved for a continuance in the case, contending that she had not been adequately compensated, Simmons wrote. Hale had previously submitted an interim bill in the case that was not paid in full by the Indigent Defense Committee, the judge's order states.

".. .the Court finds that Ms. Hale ... has no right to have an expectation that all bills submitted will be paid in full. The Court further notes that counsel for the two co-defendants in this case are also both court-appointed and are ready for trial," Simmons wrote.

"In deciding upon the appropriate sanction for contempt, the court notes that this is the second time that Ms. Hale has been held in contempt by this Court. The Court further notes that Ms. Hale did not appear timely for calendar call on this case on Thursday, November 12, 2009, and did not appear timely for trial this morning, arriving twenty minutes late," Simmons wrote.

In the murder trial, jury selection is expected to continue today in the case against Brown's two co-defendants, Kevin Michael Brewington, 24, and Gary Hakeem Brown, 25. The three co-defendants are accused of shooting to death Stanley Brown, and Norris Degree on March 20, 2006, at the Cobblestone Flats apartments, located at 2445 Rex Rd., in Ellenwood, according to a Clayton County Magistrate Court warrant application.

A witness, who lived in the complex, told police investigators that she had gone to the mailbox to check her mail on the night of the incident, according to court documents. She said that when she returned from the mailbox, she saw five persons standing in the breezeway of her building, including the two victims. She told police that three of the men had guns, and that she saw sparks coming from the gun of one of the suspects.

"Upon viewing the photographic line-ups, she [the witness] identified Tyrone Vincent Brown, Kevin Brewington, and Gary Hakeem Brown as the perpetrators of this incident," police said in the warrant application.

On March 23, 2006, officers from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the U.S. Marshall's office located Brewington and Tyrone Brown in an apartment unit at the Cobblestone Apartments, the warrant application states.

"...the 9 mm rounds that were located inside the apartment had the same markings on them as the shell casings that were located on this investigator's crime scene," Clayton County Police Det. Larry White said in the warrant application.

Stanley Brown was shot multiple times in the legs, chest and abdomen, and was pronounced dead at Southern Regional Medical Center. An autopsy revealed that Norris Degree received a single gunshot wound to the back. "The bullet did appear to be a hollow-point-type bullet, in that the bullet mushroomed inside of the body," police wrote in the application. The bullet did pierce all three chambers of the right lung, and Degree was pronounced dead at the scene, the document states.

No motive for the shootings was given in the court documents. However, Detective White wrote that detectives who had traveled to Georgia (from Massachusetts), and were at the scene of the arrests, said Brewington and Tyrone Brown were both suspected in nine homicide cases in Boston, Mass.

"This investigator was informed that the M.O. of the homicides in Boston, Massachusetts was that the subjects would call a local drug dealer, and upon the drug dealer coming to meet them to sell them narcotics ... the subjects would kill them and steal their drugs," White wrote.

Co-defendant Gary Brown was arrested sometime after the other two, according to court records. Although two of the co-defendants, and one of the victims, have the last name "Brown," there is no indication that they are related to one another, according to the district attorney's office.