Jury opts for reckless endangerment in Carter Co. attempted murder trial

John Thompson • Sep 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM

ELIZABETHTON — A Carter County jury this morning found a Stoney Creek man guilty of reckless endangerment instead of attempted murder in a seven-year-old arson/stabbing case involving neighbors.

Billy Jack Lyons also was convicted of arson and vandalism after jurors deliberated about three hours this morning.

On May 18, 2005, Lyons stabbed his neighbor Robert Emerson in the chest and burned down Emerson's barn with four horses inside at the end of Livingston Hollow Road.

Lyons had been charged with attempted first-degree murder but the jury elected the lesser included charge of reckless endangerment.

A sentencing hearing was set for Oct. 23.

The case took so long to go to trial because psychiatrists had ruled Lyons was not competent to stand trial. In 2006, the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute evaluated Lyons and found “he is not competent to stand trial and to assist in his defense.”

In 2009, Lakeshore Mental Health Institute determined “Lyons is still not competent to stand trial, although, lately he has begun to show some progress. The forensic team has determined the likelihood of him becoming competent to stand trial in the future is probable.”

In 2011, Assessment and Forensic Services, a division of Frontier Health, evaluated Lyons and said “Mr. Lyons has been taking his medication in the Carter County Jail and by all reports has behaved properly, has not required any crisis consultants, and is considered psychiatrically stable by medical staff at the jail. ... We have concluded that Billly Jack Lyons has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.”

Read Friday's print edition for additional details about this morning's verdict.

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