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Supreme Court tosses Mellon death sentence

The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man involved in the shooting death and robbery of Robert Scott Loveday in 1997.

The state’s highest court ruled Oct. 30 that James A. Mellon was not fully informed of the consequences of his decision to renege on a plea deal that would have landed him in jail for life.

Mellon was one of four people charged in the Aug. 24, 1997, slaying of Loveday that netted a watch and a dollar bill.

Loveday had just used a payphone at the now former site of Cone Oil Co., at the intersection of Kingston Pike and Lovell Road, when he was shot and killed.

Mellon was not the triggerman in the case. Co-defendant Anthony Tyler “T-Bone” Jones has admitted he shot 20-year-old Loveday. Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in June 2001 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mellon initially pleaded guilty to felony murder in 1998 and would have received life without the possibility of parole. The deal was offered to him by the Knox County District Attorney’s Office under a condition that he testify against the other three involved. Mellon backed out of the agreement a few months later.

He asked to withdraw his guilty plea, which was refused by Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz. She ruled Mellon was fully aware he had to testify to receive the benefits of the plea deal.

Leibowitz impaneled a jury to decide Mellon’s fate and in March 1999 the jury sentenced him to die. But, the state Supreme Court ruled Leibowitz did not clearly state to Mellon that he could face death if he pulled out on the deal.

The case will return to Leibowitz’s court, where Mellon could receive a new trial.

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