Possible plea deal discussed in nursing student's slaying

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2017 4:03 PM
Possible plea deal discussed in nursing student's slaying

DECATURVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A lawyer for one of three men charged with killing a Tennessee nursing student raised the possibility of a plea deal Wednesday.

Michael Scholl, who represents Jason Autry, said in court that he called Judge C. Creed McGinley about the procedure for approving a plea agreement for his client.

Scholl also said he called the judge a second time to tell him a trial date would not need to be set for Autry. Neither Scholl nor the judge discussed further details.

Scholl made the statements during a hearing in the Holly Bobo death case.

In a case with multiple defendants, it's not uncommon for one defendant to plead guilty and then testify against one or more of the others. Court officials would not say if that's what is expected to happen in this case.

Bobo was 20 when she went missing from her home in Parsons in April 2011.

Her disappearance led to an intense search by authorities and volunteers, and posters bearing her picture were distributed throughout the South. Authorities say two men found her skull in a wooded area in Decatur County in September 2014.

Autry is charged with kidnapping, rape and murder. Two brothers, Zachary Adams and John Dylan Adams, are also charged with kidnapping, rape and murder.

Zachary Adams' trial has been set for April 3. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

During the Wednesday hearing, McGinley heard testimony about whether attorney Luke Evans should be allowed to join the team representing Zachary Adams. The judge barred Evans from representing Adams, saying he has a conflict of interest.

Evans had represented Shayne Austin, who was once thought to be a potential witness in the case. Austin had reached an immunity agreement with authorities based on whether he could tell them about the "disposal, destruction, burial, and/or concealment of Holly Bobo's deceased body," court documents show.

Prosecutors later revoked the agreement, saying Austin had not complied with it. Austin was found dead in a Florida hotel room in what police said was an apparent suicide in February 2015.

Lawyers questioned whether Evans might face a possible conflict of interest in representing Adams after serving as Austin's attorney.

A prosecutor and Zachary Adams' defense attorney asked Evans whether Austin had said that he heard Adams talking about killing Bobo. Austin had told authorities he heard Adams talk in a bar about killing Bobo, but Austin said he did not believe Adams, court documents show.

The judge also refused to recuse himself from the case. Jennifer Thompson, Zachary Adams' lawyer, had filed a motion asking for McGinley to step down.

Thompson had claimed that McGinley improperly urged the parties to negotiate a plea deal. She also alleged the judge had an inappropriate discussion with prosecutors about the case. The judge disagreed.