Prosecutors from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office rested the evidentiary portion of the trial Wednesday afternoon, and the defense began calling witnesses. Bliss is being defended by attorneys Robert Rumsey and Chad Woodruff.
The victims are Scott Ray Brown, 47, Zarapharah Bills, 23, and Timothy “Jason” Roberts, 28. On Dec. 22, 2010, the victims were in a white 1995 Mazda Protégé on Whiting Road, apparently intending to steal copper wire from a Coosa Valley Electrical Cooperative substation. Bliss and his son, Richard Bliss III, were allegedly armed with a shotgun and a handgun and fired at least three shots into the vehicle. One of the shots lodged in Brown’s spine, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Wednesday’s testimony focused on the forensic analysis of the scene of the shooting.
The state called Talladega Police Department Capt. Ronnie Jones. He testified that the police recovered three nine millimeter and three 30 caliber shell casings at the scene.
He also said there were two apparent gunshot holes in the vehicle’s trunk and one hole above the driver’s side tail light. The front and back driver’s side tires were also flat, Jones said, but police did not locate any projectiles or holes in the tires.
He said the department sent the trunk lid to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science for analysis. The rest of the vehicle was not examined after Dec. 23, 2010, Jones said, although the department kept it in custody until about a week before the case’s preliminary hearing on March 1, 2011.
Later, the defense called Lawden Yates Jr., who has 25 years experience with the Alabama Department of Forensic Science.
Yates testified that the bullet fragments found in Brown’s back and in the back seat of the vehicle were more consistent with a 30 caliber bullet than a nine millimeter. The court previously determined Bliss was bearing a nine millimeter, automatic pistol.
In a recorded statement from Bliss presented by the Talladega Police Department on Tuesday, Bliss said he and his son retrieved firearms after witnessing two men run from a suspicious car toward a line of power poles near their home on Whiting Road.
“We went to pick up weapons because we had been getting broken into, and we thought it was going to happen again,” Bliss said.
He said there had been several recent burglaries in the area, including his and his brother’s property.
Bliss said he fired one warning shot during the incident and later shot at the tires of the Mazda vehicle when it began backing toward his son.
The younger Bliss, 19 at the time of the incident, was arrested in this case and has been granted youthful offender status.
The defense is expected to finish testimony today, at which time the court will begin closing statements.
Testimony starts at 8:30 a.m. in Talladega County Circuit Judge Julian King’s courtroom.
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