Overcast trial started Monday

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

By Poppy Hall

Special to the Tribune

A jury trial for Phillip E. Overcast, 49, of John Barnes Road, started with jury selection Monday morning.

Overcast is charged with two counts of aggravated assault, having allegedly beaten his victim with a golf club at a party in Lewisburg last June.

After opening statements, the first witness was the victim, Billy Joe Jones Jr.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, Jones recounted for the jury the events of June 7.

Jones and his friend Meredith White were invited to a cancer benefit for Tony Blackwell. What started as a happy, friendly party ended in a chaotic drunken brawl.

Jones described how he got into a verbal altercation with Chris Blackwell which turned physical as Jones was trying to get to his car and leave. Six or eight other partygoers joined in and also assaulted Jones. Knives and a handgun were pulled.

The fight was finally broken up when Overcast struck Jones with a golf club, knocking him to the ground. White and another friend were able to drag Jones away from the crowd.

They left the party and Jones went to his mother's house to clean up since he was covered in mud and blood. Nobody called the police and Jones refused to go to the hospital.

The next day, at the urging of White and his mother, Jones finally agreed to go to Marshall Medical Center.

The emergency room doctor examined him and immediately called the helicopter ambulance to take Jones to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Emergency room personnel also alerted law enforcement that they had a patient with a serious head wound inflicted by another person.

At Vanderbilt, doctors found Jones' skull was fractured and his brain was bleeding. Since then, due to the damage to his brain, Jones has suffered about 10 grand mal epileptic seizures.

Jones told the jury he had no idea who hit his head. He also claimed not to know or even to have seen Overcast at the party.

The jury members face the difficulty of considering testimony that appears inconclusive. On the night of the assault, everybody, including Jones, was under the influence of alcohol and it was dark when the fight happened.

When Judge Forest A. Durard Jr. called a halt to the trial late Monday afternoon, no witness had said they saw Overcast with a golf club, let alone seen him hitting Jones. No one had pointed out Overcast at the defense table with his attorney Christopher Westmoreland and identified him.

As the Tribune went to press, the prosecution was still calling witnesses.