Attorney questions deputy’s investigation

The defense of a Barbourville man charged with assault, possession and trafficking attempted to invalidate a search conducted by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department.

Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Liford was the first to respond to an assault complaint on Gregory Lane in August 2015, against Alston Southwell Jr., 44. According to Deputy Liford’s testimony during circuit court Tuesday, he arrived at the residence as Southwell’s wife was leaving the scene. Southwell and several individuals were still arguing as he arrived.

“I was well outnumbered,” said Deputy Liford. “I had to take everyone to a different location before I could even begin my investigation.”

According to Deputy Liford, during his investigation, someone on the scene informed him that Southwell, who was currently on parole, had a firearm in his possession.

“I said (to Southwell) ‘may I look around the house for a gun,’ and he said ‘yes,’” which gave Deputy Liford verbal consent.

According to Southwell, however, he only gave Deputy Liford consent to search his person, not his property.

During his investigation, Deputy Liford indeed discovered a disassembled firearm on the premisses along with a bag of methamphetamine. Southwell was arrested and charged with fourth degree assault, two counts of first degree possession of controlled substance, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Sometime after the arrest, Southwell’s wife returned to the scene where she signed a search consent form for Deputy Liford. It was this that Southwell’s defense attorney Stephanie McKeehan, was concerned about.

McKeehan questioned Deputy Liford about why he didn’t have Southwell himself sign a search consent form, or arrest Southwell’s wife, who was also a resident at the home.

“After he was arrested, Mr. Southwell was not cooperative,” explained Deputy Liford. “I was trying to calm things down because they were still all yelling at each other.”

Deputy Liford went on to explain that Southwell’s wife was not arrested because she was not the instigator.

Circuit Judge Thomas Jensen ruled against McKeehan’s motion, saying, “the motion to suppress was well thought out, but I’m going to deny the motion based on this officer’s testimony.”