Witness: Deputy Supplied Weapon In Sheriff Candidate Slaying

PINEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A convicted drug dealer testifying in a murder trial said an eastern Kentucky sheriff's deputy supplied the gun and cash used in the plot to kill a sheriff's candidate in 2002.

Dewayne Harris testified Thursday that then-deputy Roger Hall was concerned that if Paul L. Browning Jr. was elected Harlan County sheriff, then Hall would lose his position.

"Roger said (Browning) had to go. He had to be made away with," Harris told jurors in the trial of his uncle, Raymond Harris, who is charged with shooting Browning in the back of the head, then helping burn Browning's body in a pickup truck on a Bell County hillside.

Dewayne Harris' testimony was the first time an alleged motive in the case had been made public.

Hall earlier was called to testify but invoked his right not to provide information that could incriminate him. The Lexington Herald-Leader said Hall could not be contacted after Dewayne Harris' testimony. He has not been charged in the case.

Kentucky State Police Detective Michael Cornett, the lead investigator, said the case is not closed.

Hall pleaded guilty in 2004 to federal felonies including lying to the FBI, and was sentenced to 15 months in 2005. His lawyer at the time, Warren Scoville of London, told the Herald-Leader then that Hall had no involvement in the Browning murder and no knowledge of it.

A message left with Scoville's office Friday by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

Browning, 57, had been Harlan County sheriff in the early 1980s but was convicted of plotting to kill political enemies and went to prison. The governor later restored his right to hold office, and he was campaigning to win back the sheriff's job when he was killed on March 22, 2002.

Raymond Harris, 61, faces a potential death sentence if convicted. His attorneys have said he did not kill Browning, claiming Dewayne Harris and another man were responsible but blamed Raymond Harris to save themselves.

Dewayne Harris testified that to protect his drug operation in early 2002, he was paying Hall $500 to $3,000 a week. Hall was a narcotics investigator for then-Sheriff Steve Duff.

Harris said Browning talked of replacing Hall, and the deputy decided he wanted Browning out of the way.

Raymond Harris' attorneys did not get to question Dewayne Harris on Thursday, but have told jurors that his credibility is suspect.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus