Convict wants verdicts tossed

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

COURTLAND—A lawyer for convicted murderer Rockne Butler on Tuesday asked a judge in Southampton County Circuit Court to nullify guilty verdicts in the case on the basis of “newly discovered evidence.”

The new evidence, according to Butler’s attorney Randy Stowe, is a jail inmate who contradicts testimony given by another inmate during May’s jury trial that incriminated Butler for the January 2009 shooting death of Brad Harris, 26, of Franklin.

Inmate Jonquil Baker testified that he observed Butler getting a haircut from an inmate last November. The barber testified during Butler’s trial about incriminating comments Butler made during the haircut.

Baker, however, said he was 10 to 15 feet away from Butler and didn’t hear a confession or any conversation between Butler and the barber.

After a four-day trial, a jury convicted Butler of several charges related to the murder, including first-degree murder, attempted capital murder and abduction. Earlier this month, a judge sentenced Butler to serve life in prison plus 58 years.

Butler testified on Tuesday that he didn’t find out about Baker and his presence during the haircut until the night before his July 8 sentencing.

The case is set to come before a judge again for argument Wednesday, July 28.