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Special prosecutor to handle Texas dragging case

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[November 14, 2008]  DALLAS (AP) -- Under pressure from the victim's family, the district attorney prosecuting the death of a black man who was run over and dragged about 70 feet has recused himself because he once represented one of the murder suspects.

Lamar County and District Attorney Gary Young has been replaced by a special prosecutor, former Dallas County assistant district attorney Toby Shook, county officials said Thursday.

Young served in 2003 as a court-appointed lawyer for Shannon Finley, one of two men accused in the September death of 24-year-old Brandon McClelland. In the 2003 case, Finley was charged with murder and eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter for fatally shooting a friend in the head. Finley served four years in prison.

Authorities say Finley and Charles Crostley, both 27 years old and white, purposefully ran over McClelland with a pickup truck following an argument on the way home from a late-night beer run Sept. 16 near Paris, about 95 miles northeast of Dallas. McClelland's body was torn apart as it was dragged.

McClelland's mother, members of the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam and other groups have compared the killing to the notorious dragging death of James Byrd 10 years ago in Jasper. They had called for Young to recuse himself.

Shook's appointment is "a step in the right direction," Deric Muhammad, a Nation of Islam member, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.


Prosecutors have cautioned against making comparisons to the Byrd case, saying the three men had been friends for years and that the two suspects had other black friends.

Allan Hubbard, the spokesman for Young's office, declined to comment on Young's decision to step aside.

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There was no answer at the home of McClelland's mother, and McClelland's father did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.

Finley and Crostley remain in Lamar County jail on bonds totalling $800,000 and $525,000, respectively, according to online jail records.

They have not been indicted. The grand jury met Thursday but Shook did not present the case because he said he is still getting familiar with its details. The grand jury next convenes Dec. 11, and Shook said he expects to seek indictments then.

[Associated Press; By JEFF CARLTON]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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