Lawson gets openly angry after judge denies motion
The trial for the man accused of killing his daughter's grandparents in Bradley County continued Thursday. The state rested its case in the afternoon, and Aaron Lawson's lawyers began calling witnesses to the stand.
Lawson is accused of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of Debbie and Eddie Phillips on the night of April 19, 2011.
On Tuesday, Bradley County Sheriff's Office investigator J.P. Allman testified that attempts to track Lawson's cell phone location were unsuccessful because the battery had been removed. Police recovered Lawson's cell phone case in multiple pieces inside his vehicle.
Prosecutors allege Lawson pulled the trigger of the 9-millimeter pistol used in the couple's murders. Bradley County Sheriff's Office investigator, Shaunda Efaw, testified she performed a gunshot residue test on Lawson's hands after he was taken into custody.
"He asked me if they could tell what kind of gun was used, and that he had fired a 40-caliber earlier," Efaw said.
Police found several spent 40-caliber rounds while searching Lawson's home. One round was found lodged inside a wall.
"It had been shot from the bathroom through the mirror," Bradley County Detective, Carl Maskew, testified.
Signs of a 9-millimeter never turned up inside the home, Maskew said.
The murder pistol was never recovered. However, police did find three dozen 9-millimeter rounds on the side of Hooper Gap Road, which is five miles from the Phillips'. That road is part of the route Lawson would have used to drive home from Bradley County.
"I did hear some shots [that night], but at the time, I thought it was fireworks," testified Nancy Rowland, a neighbor who lived two doors down from the Phillips family.
Rowland was just one close friend of the Phillips who took the witness stand for the prosecution Thursday, as they painted a picture of the couple's final night alive.
Friend, Angie Gill, said she saw Eddie and Debbie having dinner at O'Charley's restaurant before they were ambushed and killed in their driveway.
"We had seen each other from across the restaurant and waved at each other," said Gill, who talked to the couple for "two to three minutes" when they stopped by her table before leaving the restaurant.
Medical examiner Dr. Christopher Lochmuller performed the autopsies. He testified both Eddie and Debbie were shot three times each, and had no wounds consistent with putting up a fight.
"There was nothing on the skin, or no other injuries, that would suggest that something really happened other than gunshot wounds," he said.
In both victims' case, Dr. Lochmuller believed the official cause of death was gunshot wounds, and the official manner of death was homicide.
After the state rested its case, defense attorney, Randy Rogers, submitted a motion for his client's acquittal, citing mental illness as the reason. Lawson is bipolar and Rogers said he has been on suicide watch in prison many times since his arrest.
However, the judge denied the motion, and said Lawson's symptoms do not interfere with his sense of reality or ability to comprehend what is occurring.
After the judge denied the motion, Lawson got up and angrily stormed towards the holding cell. Eyewitness News heard his defense counsel telling him he should calm down or else he "was going to scare the jury." The outburst did not occur in front of jury members.
The defense called multiple witnesses Thursday afternoon, including former lawyers who represented Lawson in child custody disputes. Some described him as an "intense" kind of guy, whereas the Lawson family's pastor testified knowing the man "needed some help."
The trial will resume on Friday morning.