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MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DETECTIVE TRAVIS JONES SIGHS, “I’M CONFUSED”
by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III
(May 17, 2011) — Assistant Public Defender Jeanne Wiggins splayed Monroe County Sheriff’s Detective Travis Jones during cross-examination this afternoon on Day 1 of the Michael Ellington murder trial. Eliciting from Detective Jones one sobering revelation after the next, Attorney Wiggins deftly turned what was supposed to be a murder trial into a public inquisition and exploration of Sheriff Bill Bivens and his outlaw Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Mr. Ellington entered a plea of not guilty by reason of self-defense.
Ellington is charged with the March 17, 2009 premeditated murder in the first degree of Julia Ann Kinsey of Lenoir City, Tennessee.
Monroe County Sheriff Detective Travis Jones was the second prosecution witness called. Jones testified the lead detective on the Ellington case is Michael Morgan, Captain of Detectives for the MCSD and senior detective under Sheriff Bivens.
Morgan assigned Jones to interview Mr. Ellington on the night of March 17 and early morning of March 18, 2009. A 34-minute DVD video was played of the Ellington interview. Detectives Morgan and Jones began the interview. Sheriff Bivens joined late.
The late night/early morning video clearly shows Ellington in a state of extreme emotional distress. Obviously distraught and fatigued, Ellington struggled mightily in telling the sheriffs how Julia Kinsey surprise-attacked Ellington with a knife while Ellington was lying in bed.
Ellington told and retold how Kinsey came at him without warning, was pushed back once, and came back at Ellington again, knife in hand. Ellington defeated Kinsley, again pushing her away. There was a loaded shotgun in the bedroom. Ellington reached for the shotgun and fired at Kinsey as she began to rise to strike at Mr. Ellington a third time.
Ellington told the detectives and Sheriff Bivens he fired, then left the home to alert his brother to call 911.
Once Ellington told the detective what happened the first time, nothing changed. Nothing! Still Morgan bullied Ellington relentlessly to coerce Ellington to speak falsely against himself.
In the subdued and hushed courtroom, a plaintive realization washed over the people in the room as the DVD played on minute-by-minute. Morgan had a theory.
Mike Morgan’s theory was that Ellington loaded the shotgun before firing.
The DVD video shows Detective Morgan working very hard at badgering, bullying and trying to force Mr. Ellington to say Ellington loaded a gun Ellington never loaded.
The DVD shows Mike Morgan in the early stage of manufacturing a case against Mr. Ellington that the actual facts of the case, as they became known, would never support.
Mr. Ellington is now locked up for two years on Detective Morgan’s theory, one which Sheriff Bivens and head of detectives Mike Morgan knew the facts would never support.
In the quiet aftermath of the DVD showing, Stutts turned Jones over to Defense Attorney Wiggins for cross-examination.
Wiggins destroyed Detective Jones. And Wiggins destroyed Prosecutor Stutts’ case.
Jones testified that 14 objects of physical evidence were collected. Of the 14, only a sample of Ellington’s blood was sent off to outside labs for forensic examination.
No DNA tests were done on the knife or any other of the remaining 13 objects of evidence.
No fingerprints were taken from the knife. No attempt was made to collect fingerprints from the knife.
Detective Travis Jones testified all the physical evidence except Ellington’s blood sample were to be processed by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Defense Attorney Wiggins asked about any outside laboratory reports or MCSD reports of evidence procession.
Jones responded saying there are no outside lab reports. There are no MCSD reports of evidence processing.
Travis Jones testified no photographs were taken of Mr. Ellington. Travis said he should have taken photographs but did not.
Wiggins queried Jones regarding clothes Ellington was wearing on the night of 17 March 2009. Jones said Ellington’s clothing should be in evidence. But Ellington’s clothes are not in evidence.
As the cross-examination progressed, it was determined that Mr. Ellington’s clothing was returned to Ellington’s family. Wiggins inquired of Jones about the existence of a property receipt. Rifling through his records, Jones couldn’t find a property receipt.
Jones was flummoxed at this point and edgy. Having had two years to get his case file straightened out, Jones nervously confided that his records were incomplete. At one moment he blurted out “I’m confused.”
Jones has had two years to get his files straightened out.
Repeating for impact: Lead Detective Michael Morgan did not file any report on the Ellington case.
“No neighbor statements were taken,” Jones told the Court.
Detective Jones said he examined a bed rail, shotgun shells and the shotgun from the crime scene but did not file any report.
Travis Jones did a visual examination of Mr. Ellington’s person and stated that he (Jones) saw no blood on Ellington’s shoes or clothing.
Travis Jones did not process Mr. Ellington’s shoes as evidence. As Jones tells it, there is nothing in any report regarding shoe prints. There are no photographs.
Jones was asked about the report his boss Michael Morgan had filed.
Detective Jones testified that lead detective Morgan did not prepare or file a report on Mr. Ellington’s case.
The autopsy doctor was called to the stand later, one Dr. Steven Cogswell. He verified a copy of his report, then entered it into the record. Prosecutor Stutts then entered into evidence shell fragments retrieved during the autopsy.
The autopsy doctor testified that Julia Kinsey had a .01 blood-alcohol content. Kinsey also had toxic-lethal levels of methamphetamines and Prozac in her system at the time of her death.
The day began with jury selection. Judge Reedy closed the public hearing, disallowing anyone to observe the jury selection process.
A jury was selected and seated in two hours.
There will be more on what’s known regarding the jury and its selection in a future report.
Prosecutor James Stutts disclosed during his opening argument that he intends to use Ellington’s prior bad acts to argue Mr. Ellington is not lawfully entitled to raise the issue of self-defense in this trial.
Mark Boring from “The Buzz” and Michael Thomasson from the Advocate & Democrat represented the press.