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April 17, 2014

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Murder Verdict
A 'No Win,' All Agree

Ethan Self

Originally published: 2013-08-23 10:57:46
Last modified: 2013-08-23 10:59:21



ROGERSVILLE -- Ethan A. Self was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after a Hawkins County jury convicted him of first-degree murder for the 2010 shooting death of his father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self.

Self, 21, was sentenced by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Lead prosecutor Tony Clark said Self must serve at least 51 years in prison before he will be eligible for parole.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated a little over four hours Wednesday and Thursday before coming back with a verdict shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.

Self appeared stunned after Blackwood announced the verdict but showed no outward emotion.

He turned around and said a few words to supporters behind the defense table, took off his suit jacket, and was led out of the Hawkins County Justice Center courtroom by bailiffs.

Self will remain in the Hawkins County jail for the time being.

Lead defense lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers had no comment after the verdict came in. An appeal is expected to be filed in the case.


Prosecutors said during the trial that Self acted with premeditation in the March 24, 2010, killing of Roger Self as he slept in his bed in the family's Love Street house.

Roger Self, 46, was shot in the back of the head with his own service weapon, a Glock semi-automatic pistol.

The defense characterized Ethan Self as a victim of physical and emotional abuse by his father, and presented witnesses who supported the contention that Self did not intend to harm his father.

In a statement to investigators, and interviews with professionals performing mental evaluations, Self said the gun accidentally discharged after he was startled by a noise made by his sleeping father.


Sentiments of Ethan Self's relatives were conflicted during the eight-day trial.

Maternal grandmother Norma George and others who believed in Ethan Self's innocence sat behind the defense table.

Effie Self, Roger Self's mother and Ethan Self's paternal grandmother, sat behind prosecutors throughout the trial with members of her side of the family.

A wave of subdued emotion swept over the courtroom as the verdict was announced.

Several audible sobs were heard from behind the defense table. People on both sides of the courtroom had tear-filled eyes, including some Greeneville police officers who were friends with Roger Self.

Police Capt. Mike Crum, who found Roger Self's body after he did not report to work at 7 p.m. on the day of his death, said the trial was difficult for everyone.


"It's somewhat of a closure," Crum said. "Nobody wins. Our hearts are still broken. We feel so sorry for the Self family and what they had to endure."

Police Chief Terry Cannon was also in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

"The justice system has spoken. Nobody wins in anything like this, and we're just glad it's over," Cannon said. "I think (Tony) Clark and his staff have done an excellent job."

Ethan Self's mother, Kathryn Anne Self, died suddenly in December 2007.

Her sister, Ethan Self's aunt, Beth Amos, offered defense testimony during the trial and sat in the courtroom in support of Ethan Self during most of the proceedings.

Amos was visibly upset by the verdict and sentence.

"It's a no-win situation," she said.


Clark, First Judicial District attorney general, was assisted by Dennis Brooks, an assistant district attorney general from the First Judicial District.

Also sitting at the prosecution table throughout the trial was Detective Sgt. Mike Fincher, of the Greene County Sheriff's Department, lead investigator on the case.

Both the prosecution and the defense put weeks of preparation into the Ethan Self trial.

The defense attempted to shift the focus of the case from the fatal shooting of Roger Self to the abuse that defense witnesses claim he inflicted on Ethan and Anne Self.

A psychiatrist who testified for the defense, Dr. Paul R. Kelley, stated on the stand that, after interviewing Ethan Self in 2010, he diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We felt the jury made the right decision. We felt we had a good case," Clark said.

At the same time, prosecutors "felt there was sympathy" for Ethan Self, Clark said.


Ethan Self was portrayed by the defense as an abuse victim whose PTSD symptoms contributed to his actions relating to the death of Roger Self.

Defense witnesses testified that the Glock handgun had no external safety, and training was essential for anyone who used the weapon.

Co-workers of Anne Self and other defense witnesses characterized Roger Self as abusive to his wife, and having a violent temper.

That testimony was contradicted by Greeneville police colleagues, who spoke highly of Roger Self and said he appeared to have a loving relationship with his son.

"There was, during this trial, for lack of a better term, bashing of Roger Self, and I think the jury saw through that," Clark said.

"I think the defense did their job as far as trying to divert attention away from Ethan Self."


Clark said he and others involved in the Self investigation never wavered from a basic belief.

"I firmly believe in my mind he intentionally walked into his father's room that night and killed him," Clark said. "We thought that he had planned the murder, and we didn't think it was an accident."

Ethan Self did not testify in his own defense at the trial, but jurors viewed a video of an interview with him conducted earlier this year by a psychologist retained by the state.

Clark said the jury did its job.

"I think the jury looked at all the evidence and they made a decision based on the law and not sympathy," he said.

"I think justice was done today and Roger Self was spoken for."


Still, Clark shared the sentiments of many others who attended the trial.

"I feel for the family on both sides," he said.

"Speaking with the (Effie Self) family, they are torn. They wanted justice for Roger.

"This was also a nephew and a grandson, so they are torn."

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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