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Murder Conviction Overturned; DA Vows Retrial

The Limestone County District Attorney has stated that he will retry a man after the defendant’s 2012 murder conviction was overturned on appeal. The appeals court stated that the jury had been improperly instructed.

41-year-old Keith George was sentenced to 50 years in prison following the 2009 shooting death of his 26-year-old nephew Rusty George at a house party in Ardmore. But an appellate court later ruled that the jury received no instructions concerning Alabama’s somewhat-maligned “stand your ground” law. How the incident began is hotly disputed and has a direct bearing on the legitimacy of Keith’s defense of self-defense. Keith claims that he was trying to stop Rusty from driving home drunk in a pickup truck, while other witnesses stated that Keith was angry because Rusty had bought the truck from Keith and that Rusty had not paid in full.

Alabama law

Alabama’s stand-your-ground law states that, in most circumstances, a person has no duty to retreat from a place that the person has a lawful right to be. Several other states have this type of law, or a similar “castle doctrine” law. In order for the defense to apply, the defendant must also establish more traditional elements of a self-defense defense:

  • The aggressor is using or about to use deadly force. A pickup truck or other motor vehicle can be considered as a deadly weapon in most instances.
  • The aggressor is using or about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling. The Georges were in the street, so this element is inapplicable.
  • The aggressor is attempting to commit a certain named offense, including kidnapping, first- or second-degree assault or forcible rape. Again, none of these elements apply in this case.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, make sure your attorney knows about all the defenses that may be available. The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum have been defending homicide cases since 1978. They know the law, and they know how to sway a jury to your side. Contact McPhillips Shinbaum today to schedule your free consultation.

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Trial Begins in Alleged Toddler Murder

On August 19, 2013, jury selection began in the murder and assault trial of a teenager whom prosecutors claim shot a 13-month-old boy because the boy’s mother said she didn’t have any money.

17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins and 15-year-old Dominque Lang are being tried separately. Each of the suspects is charged as an adult and faces 17 different criminal counts, including assault and murder. Mr. Elkins’ mother is also facing charges of obstruction of justice, stemming from the same incident.

Prosecutors allege that Mr. Elkins and Mr. Lang approached Brunswick resident Sherry West as Ms. West walked her 13-month-old son in a stroller, and after Ms. West refused to comply with their demands for money, Mr. Wilkins shot the young boy in the face.

Defense attorneys respond that Ms. West had previously been involved in an insurance fraud case, and that a relative overheard Ms. West ask the life insurance company when she could expect a check. Her ex-husband, convicted felon Louis Santiago, has a very weak alibi for the shooting and police detected gun residue on his hands soon after the incident. Neither he nor Ms. West have been charged with any criminal activity.

Strategy in criminal cases

In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys often try to create reasonable doubt as opposed to directly refuting the prosecutor’s case. In this instance, the defense lawyers are expected to argue that the boy’s parents may have played a role in the boy’s death. By creating confusion, lawyers hope that at least one juror will have a reasonable doubt as to the evidence. Such a strategy, colloquially referred to as the “sink and ink” defense among some criminal attorneys, is often effective, especially when the facts themselves are heavily slanted against the defendant.

For more than 30 years, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum have routinely defended individuals accused of serious criminal charges, including aggravated assault, murder and rape. Contact McPhillips Shinbaum today for your free consultation.