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New attorney to defend Richard Gordon in July re-trial

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Richard Gordon is escorted by law enforcement in October 2010.
When Viola resident Richard Gordon is retried this month on a murder charge, he will have a new attorney representing him.

On May 11, Fayetteville attorney Larry Robert Froelich notified Stone County Circuit Court that he was taking over as Gordon's defense attorney.

Froelich did not return a call requesting comment, but Gordon's former attorney, Jeff Rosenzewig, confirmed to The News that Gordon had replaced him and co-counsel, James Petty of Searcy.

Gordon, 63. was arrested on September 3, 2009 in connection with the shooting death of a neighbor, 32-year-old Joseph Clifton.

During a September 2010 trial, Gordon admitted shooting Clifton, but claimed he acted in self-defense.

Little Rock Attorney Jeff Rosenzewig, who represented Gordon, repeatedly pointed to a crime scene photo which showed a rifle on the seat of the vehicle where Clifton was killed, telling jurors it was proof Clifton had sparked the confrontation.

After hours of deliberation, the Fulton Circuit Court jury announced it was dead locked, because one juror refused to support the first degree murder verdict other jurors agreed to. The juror wanted to find Gordon guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, because she was not convinced the crime was premeditated.

Defense attorney Rosenzewig sought a change of venue before the first trial.

While his motion was denied, Judge Tim Weaver agreed to move the retrial to Stone County, after the Fulton County jury dead locked.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on July 12.

While Froelich took over Gordon's defense just eight weeks before his retrial, he has filed no motions seeking to delay the trial.

According to the Stone County Clerk's office, Froelich filed subpoenas on June 30, informing witnesses to appear in court on July 12, an indication he expects to go to trial that week.

During the first trial, testimony documented that Richard Gordon and another neighbor, Carl Langle, were upset that Joseph Clifton had installed a gate across the road leading to his property.

A civil suit filed by Langle claimed that Clifton had illegally closed a public road.

Gordon was upset that Clifton would not open the gate long enough for him to remove a piece of farm equipment he owned.

Clifton's wife, Denise, and other prosecution witnesses testified that Gordon had threatened and intimidated the Clifton family as the dispute continued.

Gordon testified, however, that Clifton threatened him when Clifton discovered him just outside the disputed gate.

"He (Clifton) said, 'I told you I was going to shoot you for trespassing,' Gordon testified. I said, 'You are not going to shoot nobody. This is a county road...' He reached down, he had a rifle in the truck. He proceeded to pull the rifle up and I opened fire to protect myself."

Prosecutors claimed Gordon had waited outside the gate "with the sole purpose of killing either Joe or Denise," and that Clifton would not have sparked a confrontation, since his three year old son was in the backseat of his vehicle.

While a mental evaluation concluded Gordon was competent to stand trial, Gordon was found to suffer from alcohol abuse, an anxiety disorder and a personality disorder.

Since the shooting, Gordon has been housed at the Izard County Detention facility, unable to make one million dollars bond.

He is to be transported from Izard County to Stone County on July 12 for the retrial.

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