BY KEN LITTLE
Richard Alan Murray was admittedly in a drunken haze when he shot Danny Lee Lamons to death the night of Dec. 14, after Lamons refused to leave his mobile home.
The question is whether Murray's actions in fatally shooting his "huffy" neighbor and occasional drinking companion constitute self-defense or second-degree murder.
After testimony by a Greene County Sheriff's Department detective Wednesday at Murray's General Sessions Court preliminary hearing, Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. decided to make second-degree murder charges against Murray, 55, stick for the time being when he bound the case over for consideration by a grand jury.
Lamons, 51, was shot in the doorway of Murray's single-wide trailer at 132 Holiday Lane, off Lover's Lane, sheriff's deputies said.
Lamons was shot several times in the abdomen by Murray with a 9 mm pistol, "causing his death," according to a medical report furnished by sheriff's Detective Sgt. Daniel Ricker.
Murray was sitting on his couch when he fired the gun, and a number of shell casings were collected there, Ricker said.
Lamons was flown to Johnson City Medical Center, but died of his wounds.
In a recorded statement given to detectives the morning of Dec. 15 and played back at the preliminary hearing, Murray said he became angry with Lamons after he drank most of what remained in a whiskey bottle Murray had offered him.
Lamons had been at Murray's trailer "off and on all day" before the shooting, Murray said.
Asked in the recorded statement by Ricker what the men were arguing about, Murray replied it was "basically about him being a glutton on that much in the bottle."
"I told him, 'Man, there ain't no sense in doing it that way. It's time to go home,'" Murray said in the statement.
Lamons went toward the door but "turned around real quickly. He scared me," Murray said in the recorded statement.
"I don't think I've ever seen a look like that in his eye," he added.
Earlier in the statement, Murray said he "just pulled the trigger two or three times."
"He was coming forward, and I pulled the trigger, and I remember seeing him fall back," Murray said.
At several points in the recorded statement, Murray lost his composure and told the detectives, "I didn't mean to," "I didn't want to kill him" and that he didn't realize what he had done.
"He acted like he was leaving, then he turned. He was at the door," Murray said in the statement. "He said something to me, and he wheeled around real quick. He started that way, and he scared me. He was bigger than me [and] I just pulled the trigger."
Lamons, Murray said in the recorded statement, "scared the hell out of me. He was meaner than normal."
After Lamons was shot, Murray called 911 to ask for help. The recording of the call was played in court.
"There's an intruder at my door ... I think he's been shot," Murray told the 911 dispatcher.
Murray told the dispatcher he had shot someone but didn't know where the wounds were and if the person was still alive.
"Get somebody here, please," he told the dispatcher in a panicked voice.
Asked the next day about the 911 call, Murray said he didn't remember much.
"I kind of blacked out," he said. "I just wanted them to get there."
Murray said he was disabled, lived alone and slept on his couch. He has a lengthy criminal record, including an armed robbery conviction, Ricker said in response to questions by Cecil Mills Jr., assistant district attorney general.
Murray was asked by Ricker if he got violent when he was drunk.
"No," Murray responded.
As a convicted felon, Murray shouldn't have had any firearms in the trailer, Judge Bailey said later in the hearing.
'DEFENSE OF HABITATION'
Murray, wearing a grey-striped Greene County inmate shirt and pants, sat next to defense lawyer Louis Ricker during the hearing and jotted down notes on a yellow legal pad.
Louis Ricker argued that Murray's actions were in "defense of habitation."
"Mr. Murray was in his home, and he told Mr. Lamons to leave," Ricker said.
Murray was "scared Mr. Lamons was becoming extremely hostile and extremely huffy. He was scared in his own home," attorney Ricker said.
Lamons turned at the door back toward the 130-pound Murray instead of leaving, Murray said in his statement to detectives.
NO 'DUTY TO RETREAT'
"A resident of his home does not have a duty to retreat," attorney Ricker said. "If a person has to protect himself, he can take whatever necessary force.
"We stand here today and tell you this is justifiable homicide," he later said.
"You saw how many shots were fired," Mills said. "The state submits you can't shoot a person, an invited guest who was there before, for getting huffy."
JUDGE BAILEY'S COMMENTS
Judge Bailey said defense of one's home is a more fitting legal argument when the occupant is protecting it from an unwelcome intruder and not "when you get out your gun and start shooting a guest that refuses to leave."
"Instead of grabbing his gun when the defendant refused to leave, he should have grabbed a phone and called the Greene County Sheriff's Department," Bailey said.
To have a valid self-defense argument, the judge said, "I think you have to be a reasonable person."
"The defendant was highly intoxicated," he said.
When the first deputies arrived at the shooting scene, Murray was "very intoxicated," uncooperative and was placed in a holding cell for the night until he sobered up, detective Ricker said.
Bailey denied a request by attorney Ricker to lower Murray's bond amount of $250,000.
Lamons' wife and other relatives were in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing.
The next Greene County Grand Jury will meet on March 23.