Thursday, June 10, 2010

Steve McNair case may get 2nd look

Grand jury team to review complaint

By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • June 10, 2010

A three-member team from the Davidson County grand jury will review a complaint filed in the Steve McNair murder-suicide case, presented in an effort to circumvent prosecutors and get the case reopened.

Vincent Hill, a former Metro officer, has disputed investigators' findings in the Titans quarterback's death from the beginning. He wrote a book called Playbook to a Murder presenting his own theory of the crime and made the rounds of news programs and talk shows in the weeks after McNair's July 4 shooting.

On June 1, Hill filed a 32-page complaint with the grand jury, asking that they start a new investigation into McNair's death. The grand jury convenes Friday.

But Susan Niland, a spokeswoman for the Davidson County prosecutor's office, couldn't recall a case in recent history being reopened over a complaint such as Hill's.

"It is not unusual for someone to ask us to review a case …" Niland said. "These referrals can be made by private citizens, family members, lawyers. We get them via phone calls, letters, and through our website.

"To date, Mr. Hill has not contacted our office with his concerns, nor has he provided us with any information about the Steve McNair homicide."

Still, the grand jury foreman and two members will review the complaint and decide whether the entire group should take it up. Typically, the 13-member grand jury decides whether to issue indictments based on evidence presented by police and prosecutors. Their deliberations and documents filed with them are shielded from public view.

Foreman Richard Hillenbrand said the fact McNair was a famous athlete won't change the way he handles the complaint.

"I can't speak about this," Hillenbrand said. "But I'm a retired police officer, so I know the system."

A spokesperson for McNair's estate — Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group — did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

It's unlikely, given the fact Hill has no connection to the crime, the grand jury will take up his case, said Glenn Funk, a former Davidson County prosecutor.

"A person can't go in front of a grand jury and ask for an indictment or investigation if they don't have knowledge of a crime," he said. "The grand jury needs to hear from witnesses, specifics of when a crime occurred. That is their function. The grand jury in a state court system is not an investigatory agency."

Metro police found that McNair's girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, shot him as he slept on July 4, 2009, and then turned the gun on herself inside a downtown condo the former quarterback rented. The only person prosecuted in the case was the man who sold Kazemi her gun. Adrian Gilliam Jr. was sentenced in December to 21/2 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Book has own theory
On a website advertising his book, Hill suggests Gilliam may have been the shooter.

He writes: "Prior to Gilliam leaving, Steve returns to the condominium and an arguement (sic) ensues. Gilliam, who has the Bryco/Jennings 9mm in his possession can not (sic) physically subdue Steve and pulls the gun out and forces Steve on the couch."

Hill didn't return e-mail or telephone messages Wednesday. On Tuesday, he told a Tennessean reporter the police made multiple errors in their investigation and didn't properly research conflicting alibis. Police spokesman Don Aaron said the department stands by its findings and said Hill was never a detective.

Hill, a credit card fraud investigator, resigned from Metro police in 2006 with disciplinary action pending. He was accused of disobeying orders.

He inserted himself into the murder investigation early on, contacting Kazemi's family and offering to do his own investigation.

Kazemi's ex-boyfriend, who also questioned investigators' findings, said he supports Hill's efforts.

"I definitely hope he is successful," Keith Norfleet said. "I think some things were ignored."

No comments: