A murder mystery is unfolding in a Knoxville Criminal Courtroom on the retrial of Ms. Raynella Dossett Leath. Ms. Leath’s first murder trial ended with a hung jury when the jury could not reach a decision.Day Eight of the trial starts today.
David Leath was found dead of a gunshot wound in his bed. Ms. Leath’s defense is that her husband committed suicide.However, a firearm’s expert for the State of Tennessee testified at the first trial that the firearm was fired three times the day of Mr.Leath’s death and it was the second shot that killed Mr. Leath.Knoxville criminal defense attorney James A.H.Bell offered proof that Mr. Leath was depressed and his health was poor.
The jury could not reach a verdict in her first murder trial in 2007.In closing Mr. Bell argued " If you believe Ms. Raynella murdered her husband you have to believe she is nothing but a serpent of Satan". This line did two things. It personalized his client by the use of her first name.Second, it used biblical imagery which works well in the South without violating the rules against quoting the bible in court.
The murder case has gained national exposure.It seems that Ms. Leath leaves behind death and mayhem in her wake.Ms. Leath’s first husband Ed Dossett, Knox County District Attorney General, was killed in a cattle stampede in his barn.Randall Pedigo , the Knox County Medical Examiner at the time , ruled the death an accident. Mr. Pedigo later lost his medical license for sedating and molesting children in 1995.After Mr. Leath’s death , The Dossett case was reopened and it was discovered that the cattle did not kill Mr. Dossett, but he had toxic amounts of morphine in his blood system.Ms Leath has been charged for murdering Dossett and that case is set for August 2010.
The story doesn’t end with two dead husbands. Ms.Leath discovered that Mr. Dossett had fathered a child with a women who worked in the District Attorney’s office.Ms.Leath confronted the women’s husband Steve Walker.Ms Leath opened fire on Mr. walker with a gun.Leath chased Walker across a hayfield firing until she ran out of bullets.Leath was charged with attempted First Degree Murder, but plead guilty to a lessor charge. Leath received a six year sentence and was placed on diverison which was later expunged.
The Leath case has politics, murder, two dead husbands and money.I found the case interesting in a number of ways.The pretrial publicity was enormous in that a jury questionnaire revealed 70% of those polled knew about the case.Second, the issue of suicide hinges on the testimony of forensic scientists.To deliver a not guilty verdict , Mr Bell is going to need the touch of Peyton Manning and the luck of a riverboat gambler.