FRANKLIN — The judge presiding over the murder case of Daniel Moss denied his attorney’s motion Tuesday for immunity from prosecution.
In a hearing in Simpson Circuit Court, Simpson Circuit Judge Janet Crocker found probable cause to conclude that the shooting death of Shawn Thompson was not legally justified by self-defense.
Moss, 32, of 3110 Harvey Robertson Road in Simpson County, is charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the Jan. 25 shooting of Thompson, 40, of Bowling Green.
Thompson’s body was found on a flight of steps leading to Moss’ front porch with a gunshot wound in his back, according to prior court testimony. After Thompson was shot, Moss retrieved a sword from his bedroom and attempted to place it in Thompson’s hands, according to prior court testimony.
Christina Layle, 29, also of Simpson County, has been charged with tampering with physical evidence. Layle was Moss’ girlfriend at the time of the incident, and the couple has since married.
On Tuesday, Moss’ father/son defense team of Bowling Green attorneys Currie and Wesley Milliken argued that Moss acted in self-defense when he became involved in a physical confrontation with Thompson at Moss’ home.
Wesley Milliken claimed the deadly force against Thompson was justified because Thompson and Moss engaged in a physical confrontation in Moss’ home when Thompson refused to leave after Moss had asked him to do so, with Milliken pointing out bruises that Moss suffered as a result of the confrontation and alluding to an earlier argument about a missing gun.
“Daniel was exercising his right to self-protection in his own home,” Wesley Milliken said, citing testimony provided by Detective Eddie Lawson of the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office at a preliminary hearing and before a Simpson County grand jury.
The argument for immunity was built on state law that allows for the use of deadly force when the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious injury, kidnapping or other felonies involving the use of force.
Lawson took statements from Layle and Sara Sanders, who were both at the residence at the time, and testified to finding inconsistencies in each woman’s account of the events surrounding the shooting.
Wesley Milliken argued Tuesday that when Lawson assigned more credibility to one witness’ account over another’s, that amounted to an attempt to take the decision of whether Moss is immune from prosecution out of the court’s hands.
“What part (Lawson) thought was credible and what part he thought was not credible, that does not overcome the presumption of immunity when there was a physical confrontation in (Moss’) own home,” Wesley Milliken said. “I don’t think that it’s a function of the detective to decide which story to believe because we’re putting him in a position to determine whether the statute of immunity applies.”
Simpson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Willis said the testimony offered by Lawson portrayed Thompson as someone who was leaving the house and was on his cellphone with someone to look for a ride from the house.
“The testimony was (Thompson) was leaving, he had gone out the door,” Willis said. “His body was found outside at the bottom of the stairs with a cellphone underneath him.”
The argument over the missing gun began before Thompson had arrived at the residence, Willis said.
Crocker at one point asked Wesley Milliken how a man shot in the back and found outside the house, with the accused shooter inside at the time of the shooting, could be locked in a struggle.
Wesley Milliken said it was possible that Thompson advanced on Moss and in the struggle, Thompson could have been pushed out the door with the gun discharging during the confrontation.
Willis argued that, even if the shooting were accidental, state law does not grant immunity to a defendant in the event of an accidental death.
After Crocker made her ruling, Moss was arraigned on the charges and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Crocker scheduled a pretrial conference for Sept. 30 and set a trial to begin Dec. 9.