By Jean Cole
A Limestone County judge flatly rejected a request for a new trial Tuesday by convicted murderer Daniel Keith George.
Circuit Judge James Woodroof Jr., denied a request by defense attorney Garry Clem, who argued there was conflicting testimony about who pursued whom on the day Keith fatally shot his 26-year-old nephew, Rusty George, on March 16, 2009.
A Limestone County jury convicted Keith, 39, of Ardmore, on Sept. 14 for firing three shots into Rusty following a daylong barbecue at the home of friends in Ardmore. District Attorney Brian Jones had said Keith retrieved a stick from the bed of his truck and pursued Rusty. Then he retrieved a gun from the cab of his truck and pursued Rusty, who was retreating backwards, even crossing a road, before being shot.
During Keith’s sentencing in December, Woodroof described the killing as “intentional, aggressive and heinous.” He said Keith initiated the fight, grabbed his stick to fight and “when that didn’t work, he went to get a gun.” He then sentenced Keith to serve 50 years in prison.
Clem asserted during the hearing Tuesday that his client had no duty to retreat the night of the shooting because both men had been invited to the property and because there was conflicting or unclear testimony about whether the victim or Keith was the aggressor. He said evidence showed the victim’s blood-alcohol content was .89 percent and that there was no physical evidence Keith was intoxicated, only testimony that he had consumed six to eight beers over the course of the day. As a result, Clem said the jury was improperly instructed on what evidence was needed to find Keith guilty of murder.
Deputy District Attorney Jim Ayers argued Tuesday that Rusty was shot three times and that several witnesses testified to the fact that he was unarmed. Ayers also said Keith’s argument that he had experienced rage-induced “tunnel vision” when he shot Rusty did not constitute self-defense since he did not believe his life was in jeopardy.
After hearing arguments for about 10 minutes, Woodroof said simply, “the motion for a new trial is denied.”
Keith, who stood before the bench in a black and white prison uniform during the hearing, did not speak.
The victim’s mother, Zandra George, told The News Courier after the hearing she was pleased with the judge’s ruling.