Court upholds Scott conviction
This week the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the conviction in one of the biggest cases in the county’s history.
On Friday, Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing received word that the guilty verdict and death sentence handed down to Christie Michelle Scott, 36, found guilty of the capital murder of her 6-year-old son, Mason, in 2008, was officially upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court in a 5-1 decision.
The decision comes almost two years after the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence in a unanimous decision.
“The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the decision without an opinion, which just shows they were confident in the decision made by the Court of Criminal Appeals,” Rushing said.
“If there was any plain error made during the trial that could cause the case to be retried or the verdict to be overturned, the Court of Criminal Appeals would be the ones to find the error. Since they didn’t point out anything in the entire 172-page opinion they issued, that shows pretty strongly that they were confident in the verdict and sentence.”
In fact, Rushing said the end of the report issued by the Criminal Court of Appeals stated, “this court independently weighed the aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances as required by the Alabama Code of 1975 and is convinced, as was the circuit court, that death was the appropriate sentence for the horrific murder of six-year-old Mason.”
Rushing said he was glad to have both of these courts affirm this case.
“It was a huge relief to receive the initial affirmation from the Court of Criminal Appeals and it’s a great relief to have the Alabama Supreme Court even further affirm this case.
“When you have a four-week trial with all the testimony and witnesses that we had in this case, there are so many issues that can come up that might present a problem in the appeals process, so this is a testament to the great job our circuit court did and all the others who played a role in this case.”
This second affirmation comes more than five years after Scott was sentenced in August of 2009 for killing her son.
Mason Scott died in a house fire that started in his bedroom at the Scotts’ home at 180 Signore Dr. in Russellville on Aug. 16, 2008, at 2:30 a.m.
At the time of Mason Scott’s death, fire officials were unaware of how the fire started, even though they had determined it had started in or near Mason Scott’s bedroom where the child was found after the flames were extinguished.
Christie Scott had managed to escape from the house with her youngest son, who was four years old at the time.
Scott’s husband was out of town in Atlanta on business when the fire occurred.
Fire investigations are standard in cases that result in fatalities, and once the investigation commenced, officials said investigators began noticing things that just didn’t seem to match up.
“The first red flag of the investigation was the smoke detector, which seemed to have been ripped from the wall and didn’t match the way a normal smoke detector would have looked if it had still been attached to the wall and fully functional at the time of the fire,” Rushing said.
“That was the first of many oddities and details that pointed to Christie Scott’s involvement in the fire.”
Scott was accused of intentionally setting the fire that led to Mason’s death and was originally charged with Mason’s murder in September 2008 when a grand jury found enough information to charge her with three alternative counts of capital murder – one which accused Scott of intentionally killing her son by starting a fire for the purpose of monetary gain, one which accused Scott of intentionally killing her son as a result of committing first-degree arson, and one which accused Scott of intentionally killing someone who is less than 14 years old.
Records indicate that during Scott’s initial bond hearing, testimony revealed that Scott took out an additional life insurance policy on her son the day before the fire.
Under cross-examination from Rushing, Scott’s father, Donald Bray, gave testimony that affirmed his daughter had also been connected to at least three previous fires.
The original trial began in June of 2009 and testimony lasted for approximately four weeks – the longest trial in Franklin County’s history.
During the trial, the prosecution brought up point after point that they believed proved Scott’s guilt and calculated plan to set fire to the house and kill Mason while defense attorney Robert Tuten continually maintained Scott’s innocence and that the fire was electrical in nature and no fault of Scott’s.
After four weeks of testimony and a little more than two days of deliberating, the jury returned guilty verdicts for all three alternative counts of capital murder.
The jury recommended a sentence of life without parole, but in a sentence hearing on Aug. 5, 2009, Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey overruled the jury’s decision and gave Scott the death sentence stating, “Justice must be served and the only way justice can be served in this case is by death.”
Scott has been housed at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka on death row awaiting her case to go through the appeals process.
Rushing said the decisions from the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court were the two biggest hurdles to overcome, but the appeals process will still continue.
He said the case will move forward now to the federal appeals process.