“The defendant having met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is entitled to the immunity provisions of Alabama Code 13A-3-23 (d) and (e), his motion to dismiss on the issue of immunity is hereby granted and the indictment is hereby dismissed,” Circuit Judge Tommy Nail wrote in his order dismissing the murder indictment of Robert “Bob” Carleton, 48, of Pell City.
Nail made his ruling after hearing evidence and testimony during a motion hearing last month involving the state’s case against Carleton, who was accused of murdering his 67-year-old father, William “Bill” Randolph Carleton Sr.
Defense attorneys Erskine Funderburg and Van Davis asked the court that their client be immune from prosecution based on a 2006 change in the state’s self-defense law.
Funderburg said Alabama is one of 14 states that have a “stand your ground” self-defense law.
He said Carleton was justified in the deadly shooting of his father if he thought his life was in danger. His client was not required to retreat.
Funderburg told the court last month the state’s evidence does not contradict his client’s account of what happened March 23, 2009, when Carleton fatally shot his father with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Funderburg said his client told authorities his father tried to run him over in a Kubota all-terrain vehicle as he stood behind his truck on an access road to the family’s estate.
Funderburg also said Carleton told authorities his father threatened to kill him. The suspect told authorities he only shot his father after he started to reach for a .22 caliber rifle hanging on a back gun rack of the ATV.
“If you find that Bill was the aggressor, Bob is immune from prosecution,” Funderburg said during a motion hearing last month at the St. Clair County Courthouse in Pell City.
Nail was appointed to hear the case after St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson recused himself from the case in May. Robinson is involved in a civil case involving a land dispute between the Carleton family. Robinson also has health problems and said his doctor told him he needed to cut down on his stress.
“On behalf of Bob Carleton and his family, we would like to thank everyone who has supported them over the last 18 months,” a written statement released Wednesday by Carleton’s attorneys says. “Now that the criminal charge against Bob has been dismissed, we all hope that everyone can put this terrible event behind them and move forward.
“The decision of dismissal that came today comes only after a thorough investigation of the facts by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences,” the statement continues. “The decision is based upon virtually undisputed facts and the stand your ground self-defense law adopted in Alabama in 2006. Bob Carleton was placed in a horrible position that required him to defend himself, which he did. He stood his ground where he had a lawful right to be and repelled the attempted use of force against him. In other words, Bob stood his ground and defended himself when having a legal right to do so.
“Our system of justice has investigated the matter to determine the facts, applied the law of self-defense, and deemed Bob Carleton to have acted in self-defense, and therefore no trial is required,” defense attorneys wrote.
At the request of members of the Carleton family, the St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from the murder case.
Madison County District Attorney Robert L. Broussard of Huntsville and his assistant attorneys, Jay Town and Tim Gann, are prosecuting the case for the state.
Town said the state will appeal Nail’s ruling.
“We have already filed a notice of appeal,” Town said Wednesday. “Judge Nail fully expected us to file a notice of appeal.”
He said the state had seven days to file the notice of appeal and 42 days to file the actual appeal.
“We’ll have it (the appeal) done way before then,” Town said.
He said the new self-defense law is “very unclear.”
Town said the intent of the law was to protect homeowners who kill someone breaking into their home, but the new law may have instead opened the floodgates for murder and capital murder defenses.
He said more guidance is needed as to how the new law should be applied, when it needs to be applied, and the procedures state prosecutors must go through to apply the law.
“What, are we now forced to prove our case twice?” Town asked.
He said 18 citizens serving on a St. Clair County grand jury decided there was enough evidence beyond a preponderance of a doubt to indict the defendant for murder, and this case needs to be decided by a jury.
“We feel the shock the Carleton family is feeling right now, but we’re going to pursue this case until there is a guilty verdict at a trial,” Town said. “The State vs. Bob Carleton is far from over.”
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.