Court re­fuses of­fi­cer’s im­mu­nity claim in killing

Ledger-Enquirer - - Stay connected - BY JAY REEVES

A white po­lice of­fi­cer who shot and killed an un­armed black man nearly three years ago can be pros­e­cuted on a mur­der charge, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Fri­day.

The all-Repub­li­can court re­jected de­fense claims that Aaron Cody Smith, 25, is im­mune from pros­e­cu­tion in the fa­tal shoot­ing of Greg Gunn, 58, mean­ing the case can go for­ward. No trial date is set, and Smith is free on bond.

But the court also granted Smith’s re­quest for a new judge based on claims of pos­si­ble bias, and the jus­tices said the case should be heard out­side the city where the killing oc­curred.

The of­fi­cer’s lawyers ar­gued in court that Smith could not get a fair trial in Mont­gomery, where the shoot­ing re­ceived heavy news cov­er­age and sparked demon­stra­tions amid a wave of pub­li­cized po­lice shoot­ings na­tion­wide.

Smith fa­tally shot Gunn on Feb. 25, 2016, dur­ing a con­fronta­tion that en­sued af­ter he stopped Gunn as he walked through his neigh­bor­hood shortly af­ter 3 a.m.

Gunn was walk­ing home from a weekly card game and was shot next door to the house he shared with his mother, friends said. The de­fense has said Smith stopped Gunn be­cause he thought he was act­ing sus­pi­ciously, and that Gunn fought with the of­fi­cer be­fore the shoot­ing.

Smith con­tends he fired in self-de­fense, but a state in­ves­ti­ga­tor has said the of­fi­cer gave dif­fer­ing ver­sions about what hap­pened.

While turn­ing away de­fense ar­gu­ments that Smith can­not be pros­e­cuted be­cause he was act­ing law­fully while on the job, the jus­tices agreed with his com­plaints about Cir­cuit Judge Greg Grif­fin, who is black and posted com­ments about the case on Face­book and crit­i­cized Smith’s cred­i­bil­ity dur­ing a court hear­ing.

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