Circuit Court Judge David Bragg appointed a local attorney to represent one of the defendants in the Walmart double-murder case today after the public defender’s office bowed out of the matter.
Trey McFarlin was named to take the case of Danarius Coleman, an Antioch man charged with first-degree murder in the late January shooting deaths of two Murfreesboro men in a possible drug-deal robbery in the store parking lot off Old Fort Parkway.
Bragg previously appointed attorney Tim Hogan to represent the other defendant, Demetrius Coleman, after attorney Guy Dotson Jr. told the judge he had a conflict of interest in the case and could not represent the older Coleman brother.
The Colemans are accused in the Jan. 29 shooting deaths of Latre Lillard, 19, and Andre Chesterfield, 19, of Murfreesboro. Both are being held in Rutherford County jail on $750,000 bonds.
Public Defender Gerald Melton told Bragg this morning that his office had represented one of the victims previously and had asked the court in late July to give it time to determine whether it could find a way to work around the potential conflict of interest.
Since then, however, Melton said he found out that the public defender’s office had represented both victims and that Assistant District Attorney Paul Newman would request that his office be removed from the cause “because of our connection with that victim.”
Newman explained to the judge that he had consulted with one victim’s family.
“They’re also asking the court to relieve Mr. Melton’s office,” Newman said.
Danarius Coleman, who participated in the proceeding via video from the jail, told the judge he understood the conflict of interest. Bragg granted Melton’s motion to withdraw from the case.
The assistant district attorney said afterward no decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty against the Coleman brothers.
“It’s something we will evaluate at a later time,” he said, adding he isn’t certain the Walmart double murder is a death-penalty case.
The district attorney’s office would have to notify the court of its intention to seek the death penalty, and the attorneys representing the defendants would have to be qualified to handle death-penalty cases, according to Newman.
Bess murder case
The district attorney’s office will travel to a federal prison in Florida Sept. 12 to depose a witness in preparation for the murder trial of Jewell Moses Bess, according to Newman. Trial is scheduled in February 2015.
Bess also will travel to Florida, accompanied by his attorney, Chuck Ward, so he will be able to confront the witness, which is his constitutional right.
The deposition will be videotaped and brought back to Rutherford County to be used in the trial, Newman said.
Bess, 65, is accused of killing his wife Deborah Sherfield Bess, 38, on Aug. 19, 1986 at her Richland Road home. He has been serving time in state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of child rape in 1998 and has not been allowed out on bond in the murder case.
Investigators ruled his wife’s death a suicide 28 years ago, but new details brought forward in May 2011 led to the first-degree murder charge against Bess of his second wife.