Father Is Described
As A Man With A
BY KEN LITTLE
ROGERSVILLE -- Defense witnesses in the Ethan A. Self case Tuesday characterized Roger Self as a controlling and domineering husband and father with a volatile temper.
Ethan Self has admitted to firing his police officer father's service weapon on March 24, 2010, in the Self home on Love Street, inflicting a fatal head wound to Roger Self. Ethan Self is charged with first-degree murder.
Self, now 21, maintains that he didn't intend to pull the trigger.
Prosecutors counter that he intentionally shot Roger Self, a Greeneville police dispatch sergeant.
It's up to the Hawkins County jury to consider the evidence presented in five days of testimony and decide if Self is guilty or not.
Presiding Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood said Tuesday that it's likely the case will go to the jury today.
The defense rested its case on Tuesday.
Self was asked by Blackwood if he wanted to testify on his own behalf.
After conferring with defense lawyers John T. Milburn Rogers, Herbert Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers, Self declined.
A video of a psychiatric evaluation with Self that was made earlier this year by Knoxville psychologist H. Abraham Brietstein was shown Monday in court.
In the video, Self answers many of the questions about the shooting that the prosecution might have asked on cross-examination had Self taken the stand Tuesday.
In the video interview, Ethan Self said that he didn't mean to shoot his father. He said the gun discharged after he entered Roger Self's darkened bedroom and his sleeping father startled him by making a loud snoring noise.
Self detailed what he said was a lengthy history of verbal and physical abuse by Roger Self directed toward him and his mother, Kathryn Anne Self.
A veteran nurse supervisor at Laughlin Memorial Hospital, Kathryn Anne Self died unexpectedly in December 2007.
In defense testimony Tuesday, Anne Self's sister, some of her hospital co-workers, and others who knew Ethan Self took the stand.
Beth Amos, Ethan Self's aunt, said she was never fond of Roger Self from the time her sister began dating him.
"The longer they were married, the less he liked Anne talking to me," Amos said.
Jenny Rogers asked Amos about Roger Self's temper.
"I know he had a violent temper," she replied.
Rogers asked Amos about Ethan Self's temperament.
"He was always very sweet, very good-natured," she testified.
Prosecutor Tony Clark asked Amos on cross-examination if she "didn't think a lot" of Roger Self.
"No, I didn't," she said.
Darlene Lemnah, a former nurse at Laughlin Hospital who attended nursing school with Anne Self and worked with her for 20 years, knew Ethan and his mother well, she testified. She also knew Roger Self.
"She loved him [Roger Self] more than anything on this earth. She would have done anything for him," Lemnah said.
Lemnah told Jenny Rogers that Roger Self "was not friendly, [and] he was not outgoing. [He] was a very closed-in person."
Lemnah, who was an emergency room nurse, sometimes worked with Roger Self in his capacity as a police officer, she testified.
"He had very little to say. He was very short and curt with me," Lemnah stated.
Roger Self did not want Lemnah at the family's home and also "sent the message through Anne she was not to be my friend. I was not to come around," she testified.
Joyce Cosson, another Laughlin hospital co-worker of Anne Self, also testified.
Cosson was a nursing supervisor, like Anne Self.
"[Ethan] was her whole world. She loved him more than anything," Cosson said.
Roger Self "had kind of a dry personality," she testified. "He was cordial to me [but] he had a temper."
Cosson described an incident one night after she came in to do some paperwork.
She said Anne Self had to go home and change because she was wearing perfume, which Roger Self didn't like her to do at work.
Nicole Waddell, another hospital nurse, said Anne Self was not allowed to go to the emergency room by her husband.
Roger Self called the hospital frequently when his wife was working, and was often "irate" with employees if they didn't connect him to Anne Self, Waddell said.
Rhonda Johnson, who was a reception clerk at Laughlin when Anne Self worked there, testified that Roger Self didn't want her in the emergency room because he thought "she was hanging around one of the EMS guys."
"If Anne did not answer her call as soon as he called [the hospital], he would just show up," Johnson testified.
Melissa Britton also worked as a nurse at Laughlin Hospital with Anne Self.
She recounted an incident to Jenny Rogers in which Britton called Anne Self, who was working that night, to assist with multiple victims from a vehicle wreck who had been brought into the emergency room.
"She said, 'I can't.' I said, 'I really need you to assist in the ER,'" Britton said.
Anne Self eventually went to the emergency room.
Roger Self came in the back door of the hospital and asked his wife what she was doing there, Britton said.
The couple began arguing "louder and louder," causing activity to come to a halt, Britton said.
"[Anne Self] said, 'Please, I work here. Don't do this,'" Britton said. "She never came back that night, ever."
A former girlfriend of Ethan Self testified Tuesday.
Victoria Quade said that she dated Ethan Self from the time he was a sophomore until his senior year in high school. She started dating Ethan Self after his mother had died, she said.
Quade said Self was "respectful" and "peaceful" to her.
"He was just an all-around good person," she testified.
Jenny Rogers asked about Roger Self. Quade responded that he was "a very difficult person. He was very mean [and] arrogant."
Quade said that Ethan Self never told her he was being abused by his father, but she said he would be "very upset" after phone conversations with Roger Self.
Quade visited at the Self home. She told Jenny Rogers what she saw.
"It was more of Roger being the dominant one. He was very particular about things," Quade said.
Ethan Self had to do the laundry at home, lay out his father's uniform for work, and do other chores.
"To me, [Roger Self] had to nitpick in order to take out his anger on him," Quade said. "About every time I was around, there wasn't any time there wasn't something wrong."
Ethan Self was "very ashamed" about the situation with his father, Quade testified.
TEACHER: 'A SWEET YOUNG MAN'
Kim Shelton, an English teacher at Greeneville High School, taught Ethan Self as a sophomore and during his fall term as a senior.
"He was a very sweet young man," Shelton said. "I think he was always very calm."
Under cross-examination by Clark, Shelton said Self never mentioned any problems at home to her.
The Rev. Carolyn Isley, pastor and rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Greeneville, where Ethan Self has attended since he was a child, called Self a "splendid young man."
"He's a marvelous kid, a great kid. Everybody loves him," she said.
Two ballistics experts gave defense testimony Tuesday morning.
Dr. Bryce Anderson has a doctorate in industrial engineering and is a firearms instructor and an expert in forensic ballistics.
Anderson was out of the country. His testimony was presented in a video recorded Aug. 1 with defense lawyer Herbert Moncier and prosecutor Tony Clark present.
Anderson has extensive knowledge of the .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun, the same type of service weapon issued to Greeneville police officers, including Roger Self.
"There's no actual active safety" on the exterior of a Glock pistol, Anderson said in response to a question by Moncier.
"If there's a round in the chamber and you pull the trigger, it's going to fire?"
"Yes," Anderson said.
Ethan Self told the psychologist he was startled by a sudden noise made by a sleeping Roger Self, causing him to involuntarily pull the trigger of the Glock handgun.
Self told investigators he never handled the gun before the day his father was shot.
"Training is certainly important with the Glock," Anderson said. "When (a bullet) is chambered and ready to fire, if you pull the trigger, it will result in the gun firing."
Anderson explained the term "unintended discharge" to the jury.
He said a cardinal rule of gun safety is to always assume the weapon is loaded "and always keep the finger off the trigger."
The term "startle reflex" as it applied to Ethan Self was explained to the jury on Monday by Dr. Paul R. Kelley, a psychiatrist who testified he diagnosed Self with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his alleged abuse by Roger Self.
Anderson examined Roger Self's gun, fired it and found some irregularities.
A shell casing was caught in the chamber of the Glock instead of ejecting after being fired on March 24, 2010, a malfunction known as "stovepiping."
"Does it indicate to you whether the weapon was properly held?" Moncier asked.
Anderson said the stovepiping effect is "certainly characteristic" of the gun being held incorrectly when it was fired.
Gary Shaffer is retired from the Knoxville Police Department. The firearms instructor testified as an expert in training on the Glock semi-automatic handgun.
Shaffer served on a Knoxville Police Department panel that recommended adopting the Glock as a service weapon in the late 1980s.
It takes about a half-inch pull on the trigger to fire the Glock, Shaffer testified. He was asked by Moncier about external safeties outside the gun.
"The only safety mechanism is, you keep your finger off the trigger until you fire the gun," Shaffer said.
Shaffer examined the gun used to shoot Roger Self. Moncier asked what benefit an external safety would have.
"It adds another step to the process of having to prepare yourself. It makes the weapon safe for unintentional firing, but it adds another step which can be the difference between life and death for an officer," he said.
Shaffer replied affirmatively when asked by Moncier if "stress also makes someone do something they normally wouldn't do" with a gun -- even those with firearms training.
A Glock handgun or any firearm in the hands of someone not trained to use the weapon is "a disaster, a potential loss of life," Shaffer testified.
He explained the phrase "negligent discharge."
"It's our belief [that] any time a firearm discharges, it was either deliberate or negligent," Shaffer said.
In addition to first-degree murder, the jurors have other options if they decide Ethan Self has criminal responsibility for his father's death.
Those options include second-degree murder "all the way down to criminally-negligent homicide," Judge Blackwood said.
Blackwood will issue instructions to the jury today following closing arguments by the defense team and the prosecution team, which includes Clark, First Judicial District attorney general; and Dennis Brooks, an assistant district attorney general from the First Judicial District.
Detective Sgt. Mike Fincher, of the Greene County Sheriff's Department, is lead investigator on the case.
The long-anticipated trial of Ethan Self was continued three times before being set for Aug. 12 by Blackwood.
Court officials said that because of the number of potential witnesses and the amount of evidence to be presented, the trial might last up to three weeks.
CASE MOVING 'FASTER'
Blackwood made note Tuesday of the trial's relatively speedy pace. Through Tuesday, the trial has included five days of testimony and one day to pick the 12-member jury panel and six alternates.
"This case has moved along much faster than any of us has predicted, and some time tomorrow you will begin your deliberations," Blackwood told jurors.
Blackwood was appointed as a special judge in the case after Third Judicial Circuit Criminal Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. unexpectedly recused himself in April.
Berkeley Bell, Third Judicial District attorney general, recused himself from the case in 2011, prompting the appointment of Clark as prosecutor.