Continued: No date set for Morris murder retrial

news-morris-kinBarbara Shifflett Morris, center, with supporters of her husband, Butch Morris, whose August 3 court appearance yielded no decision on whether he'll face a second trial for the murder of her first husband, Roger Shifflett.

Alvin Lee "Butch" Morris was back in Albemarle Circuit Court this morning after a seven-day murder trial in July ended in a mistrial, and it's still unclear whether the prosecution will retry him for the 21-year-old murder of Roger Lee Shifflett, the father of five who was gunned down at the Southwind Gas and Grocery in 1988.

Last week, Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said she hadn't decided whether to try Morris again after the jury evenly split 6-6 in July.

Investigators had long suspected Morris because he had an alleged motive– he married the murdered man's widow– and because he falsely accused another man of confessing to the murder. But they didn't feel that was enough to convince a jury.

When police reopened the long-dormant case in 2006, a cigarette butt found at the scene contained Morris' DNA. Lunsford brought charges in 2008, and in court, told the jury it was a circumstantial case.

"I'm pushing for a trial," said the victim's brother, Earl Shifflett, after the brief hearing. "We need another trial." His sister, Dorothy McAllister, agreed.

Judge Cheryl Higgins ordered Morris to be back in court August 27 to set a trial date– if the prosecution decides to go forward with a new trial.

"Obviously as defense counsel, I'd like to see the case ended," says attorney Andre Hakes, "but I understand it's a difficult decision for the prosecution and I think Ms. Lunsford is being conscientious in her efforts to make the best decision possible."

Morris was joined by about a dozen supporters, including wife Barbara, with whom he will soon celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary, and Lee Shifflett, youngest son of the dead man who was raised by Morris.

Updated 2:45pm August 4, 2009.


This new Commonwealth Attorney is wasting state tax money on trying this case in the first place. Now doing a retrial on a declared mistrial is even more wasteful. Mr. Morris is innocent. The Shifflett family has been beat up and emotionally tried for too long by this unseasoned CA...they're heart broken over their loved one and it just makes misery for worse for the family and children. Halt this mess and let everyone go on with their lives and quit being a liberal CA and wasting lives and monies like it grows on trees. Good gosh... there are bigger cases to try.

First, let me say that Roger Shifflett was a very good friend of mine. As much as I would like to see the murderer behind bars for life, I don't think a second trial will accomplish anything except wasting the taxpayer's money. If the first trial resulted in a 6/6 split on guilt from the very first minute of jury deliberation, a second trial would be lucky to produce a 9/3 or 10/2 split next time. At best, I don't think the commonwealth will ever achieve as much as a 11/1 split. The evidence beyond a reasonable doubt simply isn't there.

While I can't speak for Denise Lunsford of course, I do feel strongly she would agree with me. Breaking this news to the family that's requesting a second trial will be one of the hardest things she will ever have to do as the Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney. But, the sooner the better! Both families involved are sitting on pins and needles just waiting for her decision.