BY KEN LITTLE
Ethan Self's lawyers have filed a motion for a new trial, and renewed motions asking for acquittal on a first-degree murder conviction and asking for a reduction in the number of years Self must serve in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
He was convicted Aug. 22 of first-degree murder by a Hawkins County jury in Rogersville for the March 2010 shooting death of his father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self.
The motion for a new trial was filed last week.
Presiding Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood set a motion hearing date of Nov. 25 for Self, 21, who remains held in the Hawkins County jail pending resolution of the appeal.
'QUITE A SHOCK'
The first-degree murder verdict by the Hawkins County jury was met with disbelief by some in the courtroom. Lead defense lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers was one of them.
"It was quite a shock," Rogers said this week in an interview. "I think I was the most surprised person in the world next to [Self]."
Self maintained at trial that the shooting of his father was not intentional. Rogers said Self still has faith that the conviction can be overturned.
Rogers said he visits Self every Sunday afternoon in the Hawkins County jail.
"He believes in the power of the Lord, and he believes that the Lord will lead him through it," Rogers said.
LIFE PRISON SENTENCE
Blackwood sentenced Self to life in prison. Under sentencing terms, Self must serve at least 51 years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Two of the motions dismissed by Blackwood at trial will be reconsidered by the judge.
The first motion cites a section of Tennessee law that defense lawyers maintain shows that defendants sentenced to life imprisonment must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
The motion asks that Self be sentenced applying that annotated section of the Tennessee criminal code.
"The Rule of Lenity applies in this case, and the court should sentence defendant to life pursuant to the (code section) with the possibility of parole after 25 years," Knoxville criminal defense lawyer Herbert Moncier wrote.
In legal terms, the Rule of Lenity means that, in construing an ambiguous criminal statute, a court should resolve the ambiguity in favor of the defendant.
MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL
Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers, John Rogers' daughter and a member of his Greeneville law firm, were part of Self's defense team.
Moncier also authored Self's renewed motion for judgment of acquittal. An earlier motion for acquittal was denied by Blackwood at trial.
The motion states that the prosecution, led by Tony Clark, First Judicial District attorney general, did not present sufficient proof to convict Self of murder.
The motion for a new trial, fashioned by Rogers and Moncier, cites 16 separate reasons for a new trial.
"The trial court erred in not granting the defendant's pre-trial motion to suppress the defendant's statements to the police," the first reason states.
The motion also states that the trial court erred in overruling a defense objection made during the prosecution's opening statement referencing Self's second statement to investigators, when he admitted involvement in his father's death.
The motion states that the trial court erred in permitting prosecution witnesses to testify about Self's demeanor following the shooting of Roger Self, whose body was found in the bedroom of his house by another Greeneville police officer after he did not report for work on March 24, 2010.
"The trial court erred in overruling the defendant's objections to prosecution witnesses testifying about the relations between the defendant and Roger Self prior (to) that relationship being raised by the defendant," the motion states.
Other reasons state that the trial court erred in allowing the dismissal of a potential juror by the prosecution during jury selection without valid cause, and in not ensuring that the defense was provided with "critical physical evidence" referred to during the trial.
The motion refers to alarm clocks on a nightstand next to Roger Self's bed that testimony showed were ringing when his body was discovered.
Steve Scott, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent whose areas of expertise include firearms and ballistics, offered prosecution testimony that included the result of tests on gunpowder residue found on Roger Self's pillow.
"The trial court committed plain error justifying a mistrial in permitting (Scott) to testify about crucial physical evidence, i.e., gun powder residue, contained in his notes that were not provided to the defendant, that contradicted his type-written report that was provided to the defendant, in direct violation of the trial court's pre-trial order on that matter" and in violation of Tennessee criminal code, the motion states.
The trial court also committed "plain error by requesting and conducting an independent experiment with the Glock weapon regarding matters that were not contained in the expert report of (Scott)," the report said.
The prosecution presented "inadmissible and prejudicial testimony" by Roger Self's sister, Becki Self, that Ethan Self "was entitled to receive the property of Roger Self under his will, in direct violation of the trial court's pre-trial order on that matter," the motion states.
The motion also calls into question a birthday card given to Ethan Self by his father.
Other testimony the defense maintains was prejudicial was given by psychologist Abraham Brietstein "that the shooting of Roger Self was not an accident," the motion states.
The motion states that the trial court also erred "in failing to grant the defendant's request for a jury instruction on self-defense," and failing "to grant the defendant's request for a jury instruction on the spoilation of evidence," the motion says.
During the trial, the defense presented witnesses and evidence to support the contention that Ethan Self did not intentionally fire the Glock service weapon that caused the fatal head wound to Roger Self, 46, in the family's Love Street house.
Clark, the prosecutor, said after the verdict that the jury made the right decision.
Self admitted his responsibility for his father's death to investigators the day after the shooting, after initially trying to make the death appear to be related to a burglary, and throwing the pistol into a pond.
During the trial, Blackwood denied at least four defense motions for a mistrial.
If the motion is denied, a further notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days with the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
The trial was held in Rogersville with a jury drawn from Hawkins County residents.
In rulings months before the trial began, judges granted separate motions by Rogers to move the trial from Greene County, and then to pick a jury from another county.