Wife acquitted of attempted murder charge

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2000

A Summit woman was acquitted Tuesday of charges she tried tokill her husband by driving their Jeep Cherokee into Lake Lincolnin October 1998.

A Lincoln County jury needed only about 30 minutes to find LindaMorris not guilty of attempted murder in trying to drown herhusband, Bill. Since the 1998 incident, the two have divorced, andMrs. Morris now lives in West Monroe, La.

“We’re happy with the verdict,” said defense attorney WoodyBreeland, “but we expected this outcome, to be perfectlyhonest.”

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Breeland complimented Assistant District Attorney Jerry Rushingand Judge Mike Smith on a very fair trial. He also said the jurywas attentive and considered all evidence and testimonycarefully.

“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances, but hopefully all theproblems between Bill and Linda Morris are over and they can moveon with their lives,” Breeland said.

Rushing indicated the outcome was a matter of which side thejury believed.

“The jury didn’t believe the prosecution’s side of the case,” hesaid.

During the two-day trial, Bill Morris and prosecutors contendedthat Mrs. Morris used sleeping pills to drug him, drove to LakeLincoln and ran the vehicle into the lake. The defense said theincident was an accident. Other than flashbacks of drowning, BillMorris testified Monday he had no recollection of events from thetime they reached Brookhaven to the time he awoke in pain the nextday at his home.

However, Linda Morris and other defense witnesses Tuesday tookthe stand to refute the husband’s account.

Alton Shaw, a KDMC paramedic who responded to the accident, saidBill Morris was able to answer questions and was listed as alert onan incident report.

Shaw acknowledged the majority of Morris’ answers were yes orno. However, the paramedic also indicated he was “a littlesurprised” to hear Morris say he could not remember anything aboutthe incident.

On the stand Tuesday, Linda Morris said Bill Morris accused herof trying to kill him the day before he got out of the hospital.She said he had implied it earlier in the week, but that day wasfirst time he said it.

After that, Linda Morris said she decided to leave him and beganmaking preparations, such as removing money from several bankaccounts. Despite a prosecution theory, Morris said the money washers before the marriage.

Morris also said her husband was not interested in how she wasresponding to the lake accident.

“He was concentrating on what he was formulating…,” Mrs.Morris said, referring to his attempted murder theory.

Regarding sleeping pills that were allegedly used, Linda Morrissaid she took them within several weeks after they were prescribedfor her in May 1998. The defense also showed there was no bloodtest evidence to show the drugs were in Bill Morris’ system, andthe prosecution could not prove the pills were still in the houseshortly before the October incident.

In support of the defense theory about Bill Morris’ obsessivenature, Linda Morris testified about other accusations he hadmade.

One incident was a dream Bill Morris had about her leaving withanother man and saying that his dreams usually come true.

“That concerned me very greatly,” Linda Morris said.

Another was a concern that the couple’s landlord was breakinginto their Lake Dixie Springs home and using the telephone whilethey were gone. Linda Morris said her husband would get itemizedrecords of all calls and spend about two hours every monthreviewing the phone bill.

Regarding events surrounding the the lake accident, Linda Morrissaid she was blinded by another vehicle’s headlights and went offinto the lake. Prosecutors questioned why, since she was goingsouth on Sunset Drive, that she went into the lake on the left sideof the road.

“I think reasonable people would cut off to the right,” Rushingsaid during closing arguments, while also mentioning that therewere no brake marks leading into the lake.

There was conflicting testimony during the trial about how BillMorris got out of the Jeep.

Linda Morris said she unbuckled her husband’s seat belt, and heclimbed out the passenger window, although he did not follow herout of the water. A prosecution witness Monday said Bill Morris’head was just above water level on the driver side when he arrivedat the scene.

“It all comes down to credibility,” Breeland told jurors duringclosing arguments.

Breeland said prosecution witnesses’ statements wereinconsistent and contradictory. Also, some witnesses said they werecontacted by Bill Morris only to be thanked for their actions anddid not talk to him about their perspectives on the incident.

“Nobody will admit they talked to him about the wreck,” Breelandsaid, showing a contradiction to statements attributed to thewitnesses in Bill Morris’ written narrative on the incident.

Breeland continued to focus on Bill Morris’ alleged obsessivenature, mentioning the phone record actions, his multiplenarratives on the incident and his admission that he was stillthinking about the incident almost two years later.

“I can assure you, my client is trying not to,” Breeland toldjurors.

Breeland said there were serious and more than reasonable doubtsabout the prosecution’s case. The attorney said the charges werethe result of Bill Morris’ fixation on the incident and thecouple’s divorce.

“This is a bad marriage, and he’s still obsessing,” Breelandsaid.