Defense To Present
BY KEN LITTLE
ROGERSVILLE -- Defense testimony in the murder trial of Ethan A. Self will begin Monday.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday afternoon after putting about 15 witnesses on the stand over the last three days.
Because the trial moved at a faster pace than anticipated and the defense had witnesses scheduled on Monday, presiding Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood gave jurors today off.
Self, 21, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of his father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self, on March 24, 2010.
Roger Self died in the bedroom of his Love Street home of a single gunshot wound to the head, fired from his Glock service weapon.
Ethan Self, then 18, admitted the next day to firing the fatal shot.
During trial this week at the Hawkins County Justice Center, prosecution witnesses offered testimony and provided evidence supporting the state's contention that the shooting was premeditated.
In opening statements and through lines of questioning during cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, defense lawyers sought to persuade the seven-woman, five-man jury that the shooting was an accident.
Defense lawyers John T. Milburn Rogers, Herbert Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers suggest that Ethan Self was the victim of physical and emotional abuse from his father, and may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In reaching a verdict, jurors must arrive at a consensus about Self's mindset and how it influenced his actions on the day Roger Self died.
Through witness testimony and the prosecutors' opening statement, they presented a number of possible motives.
Self admitted to firing the gun in a second statement given to investigators on March 25.
The final prosecution witness Thursday was Rebecca Self, Roger Self's sister.
"Becky" Self is executor of Roger Self's will. She said Ethan Self, an only child, is named as the sole beneficiary of the estate.
Self's mother, Kathryn Anne Self, died suddenly in December 2007.
Becky Self said she was close to Ethan Self when he was younger, and helped Roger Self by taking her nephew on school shopping trips after Anne Self died.
She testified that Roger Self was a "good father" who provided for all his son's material needs.
Becky Self was asked by Dennis Brooks, the assistant district attorney general working with lead prosecutor Tony Clark on the case, about Ethan Self's demeanor after his father died.
Becky Self said she went to the family's home on Love Street after finding out about her brother's death, and then to the Sheriff's Department where Ethan Self was speaking with detectives.
"He was real quiet. He didn't say anything," she said.
'CALM AND QUIET'
The next day, Becky Self received a call from Ethan, who asked her to drive him to the Love Street house, where he was to meet again with investigators. His outward appearance was still "very calm and quiet," she testified.
Self told his aunt "he'll really miss" the house he lived in with his father.
"I told him not to worry about the house (and) we'll take care of it," Becky Self said.
At Roger Self's memorial service several days later, a different side of Ethan Self emerged.
"He was crying. He was upset," Becky Self said.
She testified that she was not aware of any physical abuse of Ethan Self by his father, and she recounted a telephone conversation she had with Ethan after he was arrested.
"I asked him, if things were that bad, why didn't he tell somebody else about it?" she said.
"What was his reply?" Brooks asked.
"He never answered," she said.
Courtney Patterson, Ethan Self's girlfriend in March 2010 while both were seniors at Greeneville High School, testified that she only met Roger Self once, when she and Ethan went out to dinner with him.
"There was a lot of silence when we were eating," Patterson said.
Testimony by other witnesses indicated that Roger Self did not approve of Ethan's having a girlfriend, and was upset because he wanted to attend the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where Patterson also planned to go.
Patterson testified that, in the short time she was Ethan Self's girlfriend, she never suspected he was the victim of abuse at home.
Brooks asked about any bruises that Ethan Self may have had.
Because Ethan was on the school wrestling team, bruises did not seem unusual, Patterson said.
The day of Roger Self's death, the two were together at school and in contact by text messages into the evening.
Patterson told Brooks she didn't sense anything unusual about Self on March 24, 2010. Self and Patterson were on track teams at school, and he drove her home to get her running shoes that afternoon, Patterson said.
Also that day, Self had a minor accident in the school parking lot in the Jeep his father had bought for him.
The couple was in a hurry and decided "to just resolve it later and not worry about it," Patterson said.
'UPSET' ABOUT WRECK
"He was upset," she said. "He had been in previous wrecks before (and) he was very worried because he just got in another accident."
After Patterson went to her after-school job, she and Self remained in contact through text messages over the next several hours.
Photos of those text exchanges were shown to the jury on an overhead screen by Detective Sgt. Mike Fincher, lead investigator in the case for the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
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In a tape-recorded phone call made to Patterson from the Greene County Detention Center, Self "stated that he had shot his father by accident," Fincher told Moncier on cross-examination.
MISTRIAL REQUEST DENIED
After the prosecution rested its case, Moncier asked Blackwood to declare a mistrial.
Moncier told the judge that defense lawyers were not provided with all the documents and reports used by expert witnesses for the prosecution.
He said the state did not provide sufficient evidence, "and has failed to prove premeditated murder."
"The evidence in this case is an accidental killing. Ethan Self's statement stands by itself," Moncier said.
The gun fired, he said, "when he thought the safety was on when he was confronting his father."
"The evidence at best (suggests) a reckless or negligent homicide. It does not support premeditated killing," Moncier said.
The motion was summarily denied by Blackwood, who told jurors the trial will resume Monday morning.
"I am confident we will finish this case sometime next week," the judge said.