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Guilty again
Jury deadlocks, judge sets murder sentence


The final fate of a James A. Mellon, convicted last week of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery in the death of 20-year-old Robert Scott Loveday, a 1996 Farragut High School graduate, will be decided by Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz.

Leibowitz presided over Mellon’s retrial, which concluded as the jury deadlocked in the penalty phase of the trial on what punishment to hand Mellon — life with or without the possibility of parole. Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Nassios had pushed for life without parole, but Leibowitz had no choice but to impose a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

Tennessee law requires that sentences of the death penalty and life without parole can be set only by a jury. Leibowitz will decide Mellon’s punishment for the especially aggravated robbery conviction in a hearing set for March 3.

The case against Mellon goes back to August 1997 when he and three associates drove along Kingston Pike looking for someone to rob in order to get money to buy drugs. When Loveday was spotted at a pay phone, Mellon, Anthony “T-Bone” Jones, David Jones and Ernest Rodgers pulled into the former Cone Oil Co. gas station at the intersection of Kingston Pike and Canton Hollow Road. It was “T-Bone” who shot Loveday twice in the chest.

Nassios told jurors Mellon was involved in another armed robbery a few hours before approaching Loveday, who emptied his pockets of $1 and a wristwatch.

For their roles in the slaying, “T-Bone” Jones is serving life without parole. Rodgers and Jones are serving 40-year terms.

Mellon had been given the death penalty after his first trial but the state Supreme Court overturned the verdict stating that Mellon did not understand that he could have faced death when he pulled out of a plea deal made with the Knox County District Attorney’s office.

Before last week’s trial began, Leibowitz set guidelines for Nassios and Mellon’s defense attorney, Susan Shipley. Prospective jurors were questioned regarding their knowledge of the case from prior media coverage, and some details of the ongoing case were dubbed not relevant for trial.

“Let’s try to make this as clean as possible,” Leibowitz said.

 

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