Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 18, 2014

Stage set for hearing on Bennett's plea

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — Several motions in the quadruple Renegade shooting deaths were heard last week, setting the stage for a major battle that is expected to rise to the appeals court level over whether one suspect's court room utterence should have been accepted as a plea in the case.

Jacob Allen Bennett, 26, whose last known address was Woodbridge Rd., waived his appearance last week in Cumberland County Criminal Court, but will be expected to be  in attendance May 28 when it is anticipated that a major courtroom battle will take place over his attempt to enter a plea during arraignment late last year.

The reason this is so crucial to the state's case is that if it is found that Bennett's surprise reply of "guilty" when asked by Criminal Court Judge David Patterson is, in fact, a proper pleading, that would negate pursuit of the death penalty because state prosecutors had not given notice they would seek the death penalty prior to arraignment.

Bennett is being detained in the Morgan County Regional Corrections facility near Wartburg.

Bennett and Brittany Lina Yvonne Moser, 25, of Dayton, TN, are charged in the September 2013 shooting deaths of Danielle "Rikki" Jacobsen, 22, Dominic Davis, 17, Steven Presley, 17 and John Lajeunesse, 16. Their bodies were discovered by a passerby in Jacobsen's vehicle parked on a cul-de-sac in an undeveloped subdivision on Renegade Mountain. (Please see accompanying story on Moser's bond hearing.)

District Attorney Randy York, Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie and defense attorneys Jim Simmons of Henderson and Robert Marlow of Shelbyville worked through several routine motions that are normally filed in capitol murder cases. Most motions filed by Marlow and Simmons were agreed to prior to the hearing.

Those matters dealt with issues relating to constitutional issues concerning the death penalty. Specifically, the defense asked that the indictment and death notice be dismissed based upon constitutional issues.

Patterson denied those motions.

Routine motions for discovery of evidence the state intends to place before the jury was filed and Simmons told the court that the sharing of evidence was "on going." State lab results are continuing to be processed and sent to prosecutors and will be given to defense attorneys when received.

McKenzie noted that he anticipates more than 1,000 pages of documents to be included in the state's case as forensic and medical examiner reports continue to be prepared.

It was also agreed that the state would respond to all motions filed by the defense in writing.

Marlow and Simmons want to know if the state is going to present uncharged misconduct of Bennett at trial prior to testimony so they can prepare responses to whether that testimony should be heard by the jury. McKenzie said the state agreed to that request with the exception of unanticipated testimony at trial that might require rebuttal response. In that case, an out-of-jury hearing will be held.

One motion filed by Marlow and Simmons asked the court to direct Florida authorities to release any adult and juvenile records on their client. Patterson agreed to issue such a motion but noted that he did not see any reason Florida officials would be forced to comply with his order.

Patterson scheduled the next hearing for May 28, but required defense attornies to file their motions to be heard on that day by April 25 and further added that the state must file its written response by May 15.