Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Assassination in Middle Tennessee

A Cornucopia of Pretrial Motions

Before his murder case drifted off on the John Wayne Dedmon saga, Looper and Trant filed a request with the Tennessee Supreme Court, seeking to have Daniel removed from the case. The judge was incapable of being impartial, they claimed, because Daniel, a Democrat, also served as a jurist in Cannon County, which was part of Sen. Charlotte Burks' district. The Supreme Court rejected Trant's motion without comment.

The day after Daniel issued the gag order preventing Trant from holding his prosecutorial misconduct press conference, the Knoxville attorney filed another motion asking Daniel to recuse himself. Daniel declined.

"We all have to be from somewhere," Daniel said in a ruling from the bench. "I am from Murfreesboro. When I became a judge I took an oath to see that any case coming before the court would be judged on the merits."

At the same hearing, Daniel set an August 1999 trial date and the parties agreed that an out-of-county jury would be brought in to hear the case. He ruled against moving the trial to Roane County, and said that the court would move to another jurisdiction long enough to get a jury but the actual trial would be held in Crossville.

Nearly a month would pass before the principals in the Looper murder case would be back in court, but during that time much work was done to further implicate Looper in Tommy Burks' murder. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was able to test-fire the pistol found near I-40 and revealed that it was the murder weapon.

For the first time, Gibson revealed that his office might have tracked down the elusive automobile that Looper told Joe Bond he used during the crime. Among the evidence were ownership papers for both Looper's Chevy Beretta and an Audi 4000S, as well as pages from the Georgia Auto Trader magazine.

The tire track report could not link the tire impressions to Looper's Beretta, but in addition to the other evidence, Gibson also reported finding a receipt for the purchase of tires. Most damaging, perhaps was Gibson's acknowledgement that the district attorney would be introducing a box for a Smith & Wesson pistol, holster and ammunition clip found among Looper's possessions. A later amended filing would report that the TBI found gunshot residue in Looper's Beretta. The TBI report said that there was "the presence of particles unique to and consistent with gunshot primer residue" throughout the driver's side of the Beretta and outside on the mirror on the passenger's side.

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