By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the trial of a Montgomery police officer facing murder charges related to the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in 2016.
Justices delayed the trial that was scheduled to begin Monday to consider defense appeals, including that the officer should be immune from prosecution because he was acting in self-defense. They are also arguing that the trial judge tainted the jury pool with his comments saying the officer’s pretrial testimony about the shooting wasn’t “credible.”
Police officer Aaron Cody Smith faces murder charges for the 2016 shooting of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. Smith shot Gunn multiple times during a confrontation that began after Smith stopped Gunn as Gunn was walking through his own neighborhood late at night.
Smith’s attorneys are appealing Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin’s decision denying Smith immunity from prosecution. Defense lawyers argue Smith should be immune under the state’s “stand your ground” law from prosecution because he was acting in self-defense.
Smith testified during an immunity hearing last month that he was “absolutely” in fear of his life when he shot Gunn. He said Gunn had resisted a frisk, ran from him and was “arming himself” with a six-foot (1.8-meter) painter’s pole from a front porch. Gunn said he first tried a stun gun and baton on Gunn before pulling his weapon.
Griffin, in denying the immunity request, said that he didn’t find Smith’s testimony about the shooting to be “credible.”
Defense attorneys have also asked for a new trial judge, saying Griffin’s comments tainted the jury pool in the case.
“We believe that these public comments greatly damage our chances to get a fair trial,” defense lawyer Mickey McDermott said Wednesday.
The Supreme Court told prosecutors to file their response to the defense appeals within two weeks.
The defense has previously tried unsuccessfully to get the trial moved from Montgomery, saying it would be impossible for Smith to receive a fair trial in the Deep South city where emotionally charged protests took place in the wake of the shooting of a black man by a white police officer.
Smith testified that he stopped Gunn that night because of a recent rash of burglaries in the district. Gunn was walking home from his weekly card game to the house he shared with his mother, his friends said.