A planned killing, or self-defense?

February 25, 2009

Neal Wagner -

 

It may have been a case of a jealous lover or one man attempting to save his own life, defense and prosecuting attorneys said of an Alabama resident charged with shooting and killing 31-year-old Adrian Boyette. 

 

Several state-called witnesses, many who were law enforcement officers, marked the first day of 49-year-old James Newell''s murder trial Tuesday in Lowndes County Circuit Court. 

 

Newell, of 706 Sailor Cemetery Road in Vernon, Ala., was arrested by the Lowndes County Sheriff''s Office May 14, 2008, and charged with shooting and killing Boyette in the parking lot of the Slab House bar on Caledonia-Vernon Road near Caledonia. 

 

The charges came after the bar''s owner heard a gunshot outside the bar, discovered Boyette had been shot in the chest and called 911. After LCSO deputies and Caledonia marshals arrived on the scene, they learned Newell had fled the scene in his vehicle and traveled into Alabama. 

 

After Lowndes County authorities notified Lamar County, Ala., authorities of the shooting, officers with the Lamar County Sheriff''s Department and the Vernon Police Department discovered Newell at his house threatening to commit suicide. 

 

"We responded to Mr. Newell''s residence after we received a notice from 911 that someone was threatening suicide at that location," testified VPD officer Jeff Patrick. "We got to his house at about 9:30 p.m. that night and found Mr. Newell sitting at the base of a tree with a gun to his head." 

 

Although the Vernon and Lamar County officers attempted to convince Newell to surrender, the suspect cursed them and ordered the officers to kill him, Patrick explained. 

 

However, Newell agreed to take the gun away from his head when David Sullivan, an Alabama district attorney''s investigator and childhood friend of Newell, approached the suspect and began speaking with him. 

 

"Sullivan and Mr. Newell then talked about what had happened at the Slab House that night," Patrick recalled. "He said he had called his wife''s phone earlier in the day and a man answered it and he was going to the Slab House to find out who it was. 

 

"When he got to the Slab House, Mr. Newell explained he saw two men standing near his wife''s car in the parking lot. He then asked them if they had answered his wife''s cell phone," Patrick said, adding Newell and his wife had been married two weeks. "He said one of the guys said he hadn''t and the other guy (Boyette) became combative." 

 

While Newell and Boyette were talking in the parking lot, Newell entered his vehicle. Boyette then began punching Newell''s truck window, VPD officer James Smith testified as he recalled statements Newell made before he was arrested. 

 

"He said he got in the truck, one of the guys in the parking lot started hitting his truck window and then he got out and popped a cap in him and got back in the truck and left," Smith said.  

 

While defense attorney William Starks and Assistant District Attorney Rhonda Hayes-Ellis agreed Newell shot Boyette, each sought to paint a different picture of the crime scene. 

 

The suspect, dressed in khaki pants and a black polo shirt, sat silently as Hayes-Ellis attempted to convince the jury Newell killed Boyette "for no reason." 

 

"Throughout this trial, I will prove that James Newell thought his wife of 14 days was cheating on him," said Hayes-Ellis. "Because of that, he went to the Slab House that night. 

 

"For whatever reason, Mr. Newell encountered Mr. Boyette and had some words with him," Hayes-Ellis added. "I will prove that he pulled a gun out and killed Mr. Boyette. I will also prove that he planned and intended to do so." 

 

However, Starks suggested the suspect shot Boyette in self-defense. 

 

"I will not dispute who shot Mr. Boyette. It was Mr. Newell," Starks said. "While the defendant was walking up to his truck, Mr. Boyette walked up behind him and physically attacked him. 

 

"He slammed the truck door on the defendant''s leg and then continued to attack him," Starks added. "Yes, he is guilty of being a jealous husband. But what we have here is nothing more than Mr. Newell fending off an attacker." 

 

Testimony in the trial resumed this morning.