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Retrial for Mellon began Tuesday


A seven-year-old murder is once again in the hands of jurors this week.

As of press time Tuesday, a jury of six women and eight men were hearing witness testimony in the retrial of James A. Mellon, who along with three others were charged in the August 1997 shooting death of 20-year-old Robert Scott Loveday.

Loveday was a 1996 graduate of Farragut High School.

Mellon is charged with first-degree felony murder with aggravated robbery. He pled not guilty. Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz who oversaw jury selection is hearing the trial.

Two groups of jurors were questioned to determine the final 14; two will be randomly selected as alternates at the end of testimony. Because of extensive media coverage surrounding the case, jurors who indicated they recalled details of the crime were questioned individually and some were excused.

In addition, Knox County prosecutor Leslie Nassios questioned prospective jurors about their ability to render the punishment sought by the state — life without the possibility of parole, even though Mellon was not the actual shooter.

In her opening statement, Susan Shipley, Mellon’s defense attorney, said she and her client were “seeking fairness and consistency” and that Mellon be held responsible for the manner in which he was involved.

“James Mellon did not take Scott Loveday’s life,” Shipley said.

“He is the link among the men,” Nassios said in her opening statement about Mellon’s relationship with the three others present. “Together these four young men embarked on a dangerous, deadly mission.”

Nassios claimed Mellon and the others sought to rob Loveday in order to get money to buy drugs. She said a robbery was Mellon’s idea and it was he who spotted Loveday shortly after midnight Aug. 24.

On the first day of trial, jurors heard testimony from the man who found Loveday shortly after he was shot, from a FHS friend of Loveday’s, two Knox County Sheriff’s Department officers and the pathologist who performed Loveday’s autopsy.

Evidence entered included the murder weapon, spent shell casings and photographs of Loveday’s body and the crime scene.

Loveday’s mother, Patricia Loveday, and his grandmother, Betty Kinder, were in the courtroom.

“We haven’t missed a hearing,” Kinder said referring to the various hearings and trials of all four men charged in the shooting.

As to returning for Mellon’s second trial, Patricia said, “You’re victimized over and over.” Both family members are hoping for a guilty verdict and a life without parole judgment. “With parole, it’s something you continually have to deal with,” Patricia said.

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, 2004, 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 Canton Hollow 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.

The court noted Mellon initially pointed the gun at Loveday and demanded money before Anthony Jones took the gun and fired two shots into Loveday’s chest.

Anthony Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in June 2001 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

David Michael Jones, no relation to Anthony Jones, and Earnest Leon Rodgers, who was 14-years-old at the time of the murder, entered plea agreements that netted them 40-year sentences.

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 saying he was afraid of being labeled a “snitch” in prison. 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.

 

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