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Mills’ manslaughter conviction overturned

Nearly a year after his trial, the conviction of a Phil Campbell man found guilty of manslaughter was overturned last Friday.
In April of 2012, Jerry Ronald Mills, 57, 194 Block Church Road, Phil Campbell, was found guilty of manslaughter in the March 2011 shooting death of 70-year-old Robert Leroy Presley of Russellville.
Mills was originally charged with murder and the state argued during the trial that Mills acted in anger when he shot Presley, who used a wheelchair for mobility.
Defense attorneys argued that Mills actually shot Presley in self-defense.
After a three-day trial, a Franklin County jury found Mills guilty of manslaughter and he was later sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction last Friday because of a trial technicality.
According to the court’s opinion, the conviction was overturned because the jury instruction was deficient in the area of self-defense.
The court maintained the trial judge, Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey, didn’t include a verbal threat the victim in the case made toward Mills just minutes before the shooting took place.
The court’s opinion stated Dempsey should have mentioned the verbal threat when he was instructing the jury on the self-defense charge.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said they thought the victim’s phrase that the court called a verbal threat had been merely a response to Mills’ actions at the time.
“We believe prior to Jerry Mills shooting Robert Presley that Mr. Mills told Mr. Presley he had a ‘hog leg,’ referring to a gun, and in response, Mr. Presley said ‘I’ll give you a hog leg,’” Rushing said.
“We thought Judge Dempsey’s instructions were sufficient on that issue. We were disappointed with the court’s ruling.”
Rushing said he has already contacted the Alabama Attorney General’s office to ask that they request a reconsideration from the Court of Criminal Appeals.
“If they do not grant the reconsideration, the next step will be to take the case to the Alabama Supreme Court, who would have to agree to hear the legal issue at hand,” Rushing said.
“If we are unsuccessful at the appellate level, we will re-try the case.”
Mills is currently out of jail on an appeal bond.