1st Degree Murder
Is The Charge;
Jurors Have Other,
BY KEN LITTLE
ROGERSVILLE -- Jurors in the Ethan A. Self case resumed deliberation this morning as the trial went into its eighth day.
The seven-woman, five-man jury received the case about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday following closing arguments by the defense and prosecution.
Jurors deliberated about an hour before being sent home for the evening by presiding Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.
Self, now 21, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of his police officer father, Roger Self, on March 24, 2010, at the Self family home on Love Street.
The trial is being held at the Hawkins County Justice Center, with a jury comprised of Hawkins County residents.
The jury has the option of finding Self not guilty, finding him guilty of first-degree murder, or convicting him of a lesser crime, including second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, or negligent homicide.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors acknowledged to the jury that its members have a tough decision to make.
The prosecution maintains that Ethan Self intentionally shot his father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self, with his father's service weapon. They said testimony shows that Ethan Self's actions the day of the shooting point to a premeditated act.
Defense lawyers contend that Self, who was 18 at the time, did not mean to fire the semi-automatic handgun, which the lawyers say discharged when Ethan was startled after Roger Self made an unexpected loud noise as he slept in his bedroom.
Defense witness Dr. Paul R. Kelley testified Tuesday that, following a 2010 interview with Ethan Self, the psychiatrist diagnosed him as having post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD.
Kelley testified that Ethan Self developed PTSD after years of physical and mental abuse by Roger Self.
Kelley said that PTSD caused a condition in Ethan Self known as "startle reflex," an involuntary response to loud noises that may have caused him to unintentionally pull the trigger on the loaded handgun.
The jury heard strongly-worded closing statements by the defense and the prosecution.
Prosecutors Tony Clark and Dennis Brooks told the jury to concentrate on the facts surrounding the death of Roger Self, not physical and mental abuse of Ethan Self or any mental disorders that may have resulted from it.
Defense lawyers John T. Milburn Rogers and Herbert Moncier urged jurors to consider all the evidence presented in the case, including defense testimony that indicates the shooting was not intentional.
Clark, First Judicial District attorney general, who is special prosecutor in the case, told the jury not to focus on what the defense claims was a lengthy history of abuse of Ethan Self and his mother, Kathryn Anne Self, a nurse who died suddenly of natural causes in December 2007 while working at Laughlin Memorial Hospital.
"Why don't we bring a poster board and put it right here and put [Roger Self] on trial?" Clark said.
"The defense [strategy] is character assassination of Roger Self. The person, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, who is on trial here is Ethan Self, not Roger Self."
'PUT YOUR EMOTIONS ASIDE'
Clark asked jurors to put their emotions aside while deciding the innocence or guilt of Ethan Self.
"This is a difficult, difficult case," Clark said. "You have sat here and listened to a tragic case."
Testimony of co-workers of Anne Self and others who knew the family indicated on Tuesday that, before her death, she served as a protector to Ethan Self from his father's abuse.
"You can have no prejudice or sympathy on allowing anything but the law," Clark told the jury.
"If you feel sorry for this young man, you can't go back there and consider that when you deliberate on this case."
Clark held up Roger Self's Glock handgun, along with a brick that Ethan Self admitted attaching to the weapon before throwing it in a pond at Hardin Park shortly after the shooting.
Then Clark showed the jury a bullet in a small plastic bag: the bullet that caused the fatal wound to Roger Self.
"One bullet went through Roger Self's head that night. This bullet (was) fired from this gun, Roger Self's service weapon, while he was asleep," Clark said.
He pointed at Ethan Self.
"Roger Self is not on trial. He is," Clark said.
Clark urged the panel "to follow [jury] instructions and find [Ethan Self] guilty of premeditated first-degree murder."
Dennis Brooks, the First Judicial District assistant district attorney helping Clark prosecute the case, asked jurors in his closing argument to consider what he called his "hypothesis" of Ethan Self's actions on March 24, 2010.
Brooks put main points on an overhead screen for the jury to view.
He wrote that Self couldn't take the pressure of a March 25, 2010, interrogation by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent and confessed to the shooting. In an earlier statement the night of March 24, Self denied involvement.
"He was faced with a dilemma -- tell the whole truth and face a first-degree murder conviction because it was intentional or premeditated, or try to justify why he had the gun in the bedroom," Brooks wrote.
Ethan Self couldn't say the shooting was in self-defense because Roger Self was asleep, Brooks wrote.
Ethan Self couldn't call it an accident, "because he had to explain why the gun was there." Brooks wrote. "So, he comes up with a self-defense/accident scenario that minimizes the eventual punishment."
Prosecutors were unable to pinpoint the exact time that Roger Self died, or what they feel is the motive for the shooting.
Roger Self was scheduled to begin work at 7 p.m. on March 24, and his body was found shortly afterward by Greeneville police supervisors who went to his house.
"In any homicide case like this one, there will be some unanswered questions," Brooks said. "What was going through [Ethan Self's] mind, nobody knows."
Brooks asked the jury to think about "things that don't make common sense" about the defense case, and he cited several examples.
He said that Ethan Self told investigators he was supposed to awaken his father at 4:45 p.m. on March 24.
Self said his father woke up at 5:50 p.m, went into the room where he [Ethan] was watching television, and roughly pushed his head into the back of a recliner.
Ethan Self said that Roger Self then went back to bed.
An alarm clock by Roger Self's bed was ringing when police arrived. A TBI investigator testified earlier in the trial that the clock was set for 4:30 p.m.
"That doesn't make sense. You attack someone for not waking [you] up and then go back to bed knowing you have to go to work in an hour," Brooks said.
Common sense, Brooks said, "is why we've got 12 jurors and not 12 psychiatrists."
Moncier and Rogers both asked the jury to find Ethan Self not guilty.
"If somehow the doors to the courtroom can swing open and Anne Self can take the stand, she can tell you about the living hell of the years of her marriage to Roger Self," Rogers said. "Another tale of a battered wife."
Defense testimony Tuesday characterized Roger Self as a controlling, domineering husband and father with a temper that was sometimes violent.
Rogers told jurors that the state paid for an evaluation of Ethan Self by psychologist H. Abraham Brietstein, but did not use any of his report. Instead, he served as a defense witness.
Brietstein, while voicing the opinion that Ethan Self 's firing of the Glock was "inevitable" once Self decided to confront his father with the gun, added that he believed Self was a victim of abuse at the hands of his father.
Self declined to testify in his own defense, but the jury saw the video of Brietstein's interview with him earlier this year.
Rogers repeated testimony by Kelley that the psychiatrist had interviewed more than 1,000 child abuse victims, and was convinced that Ethan Self was telling the truth.
"He said if he thought one of those people were malingering, trying to pull the wool over his eyes, he would walk away from it," Rogers told the jury.
It's entirely plausible that even people close to Ethan Self were not aware of abuse by Roger Self," Brietstein wrote in his report, "because abusive families tend to be highly insulated."
"You heard the expression 'nobody knows what was going on behind closed doors'" Ethan knew what was going on, and Anne knew what was going on," Rogers said.
"The psychologist and Dr. Kelley understood what was going on in that house, and they believed what Ethan had to say."
Rogers told jurors it is important to give credence to the abuse testimony.
"I would ask you to at least consider what the evidence shows in guiding you," Rogers said. "If you find it to be the truth, then it's critical to your determination of his guilt or innocence in this case."
'A WALL' OF PROTECTION
Moncier told jurors in his closing argument that they represent "a wall" to protect Ethan Self.
"A jury of 12 people is a wall between the power of the government and the freedom of the citizens," he said. "The wall is only so strong as you make it."
Moncier likened the jury to "12 bricks" and said it takes only one juror "to prevent a person from going to prison."
He called the facts of the case a "tragedy," adding that convicting Ethan Self "only compounds the tragedy."
In "painting the picture" for the jury, Moncier said the prosecution ignored the "other side" of the Ethan Self case.
"What would make a person do something in this case that is irrevocably contrary to his entire personality?" Moncier said.
"How his mind was working at the time of the event is what you are going to have to decide."
Moncier told the jury that, after Anne Self's death, Ethan Self didn't get psychological help because Roger Self "knew that if he got psychotherapy, that sooner or later it was going to come out what was happening in the house."
"If that is a reasonable hypothesis, you must acquit," Moncier said.
During prosecution rebuttal testimonyWednesday morning, several Greeneville police officers testified as character witnesses on behalf of Roger Self.
Assistant Chief Craig Fillers described Roger Self as "a great officer" whose death was deeply felt by fellow officers.
Earlier in the trial, Greeneville police officers testified that Ethan Self often visited his father at the police station, and said that father and son appeared to have a loving relationship.
About 15 Greeneville police officers and Greene County sheriff's deputies attended the trial on Wednesday. Most sat in the back of the courtroom.
Greeneville police Chief Terry Cannon was among the law enforcement officers present.
More than a dozen supporters of Ethan Self sat behind the defense table, including Ethan Self's maternal grandmother, Norma George.
Roger Self's mother and Ethan Self's paternal grandmother, Effie Self, was joined by about eight supporters behind the prosecution table.
Ethan Self watched the closing arguments without any outward display of emotion, with one exception.
Clark showed the jury an autopsy photo of Roger Self's body with the fatal bullet wound to the back of his head.
Included with the photo was a picture of an 18th birthday card given by Roger Self to his son several months before his death, and a picture of a text message from Ethan Self to then-girlfriend Courtney Patterson at 7:41 p.m. on March 24, 2010 stating, "Dad is gone."
Self appeared to wipe away tears, then regained his composure.