December 3, 2010 10:37:00 AM
JACKSON -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for an Alabama man who appealed his 2009 manslaughter conviction in Lowndes County.
James Newell of Vernon, Ala., was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the shooting death of 31-year-old Adrian Boyette. The shooting occurred at the Slab House bar in Caledonia in 2008.
Prosecutors say Boyette, of Sulligent, Ala., died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Newell was charged with murder in the case but the jury convicted him of manslaughter.
Newell contended he shot Boyette during an argument in the bar''s parking lot. Newell claimed Boyette came after him as he tried to leave in his truck. He said Boyette pounded on the truck, yelled at him and threatened to cut him and Newell shot him when Boyette started to reach into his pocket.
The Supreme Court said Thursday that the trial judge failed in letting the jury consider Newell''s claim that he acted out of fear that Boyette would hurt him.
Justice Jim Kitchens, writing for the court, said the case involved an interpretation of the so-called "Castle Doctrine," which gives Mississippians a stronger legal right to defend themselves with deadly force in their homes, cars and workplaces without first retreating.
Kitchens said if the occupant is still in danger after exiting the vehicle, and he is still in the immediate premises of vehicle, then he should be allowed to use reasonable force to defend against the danger and still be presumed to have acted in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm."
Kitchens said, based on Newell''s testimony, that''s what the defendant did. Kitchens said the jury should have been allowed to consider the question in reaching a verdict.