Continued: No date set for Morris murder retrial
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.