“Because none of the issues the state raises on appeal were properly preserved in the trial court, there is nothing for this court to review. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed,” appeals court justices wrote.
In September 2010, Jefferson County Criminal Court Judge Tommy Nail dismissed the state’s case against Robert “Bob” Carleton, 49, of Pell City, who was accused of murdering his 67-year-old father, William “Bill” Randolph Carleton Sr., after defense attorneys asked the court that their client be immune from prosecution based on a 2006 change in the self-defense law of the state, a “stand your ground” self-defense law that was enacted in 13 other states.
Pell City attorney Erskine Funderburg said the younger Carleton was justified in shooting his father, if he thought his life was in danger, and his client was not required to retreat.
Funderburg told the court last year that the states’ evidence did not contradict his client’s account of what happened March 23, 2009, when Carleton fatally shot his father with a 12-gauge shotgun.
He 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 shot his father in self-defense after he started to reach for a .22 caliber rifle hanging on a back gun rack of the ATV.
Nail ruled that the defense “met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he (Carleton) is entitled to the immunity provisions of Alabama Code 13A-3-23 (d) and (e),” and the defense motion to dismiss was granted and the murder indictment was dismissed before a jury could hear any evidence in a criminal trial.
The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Nail’s ruling.
“On behalf of Bob Carleton, we are happy with the unanimous decision of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals,” Funderburg said Tuesday. “The court’s unanimous decision confirms what we’ve believed all along — that Alabama law required the trial court to dismiss the case against Mr. Carleton and that the trial court was correct when it did so.
“My co-counsel (Van Davis) and I have worked very hard to allow Mr. Carleton to present the facts in this very unfortunate case,” Funderburg said. “We can only hope that the court’s unanimous decision will put this matter to rest and allow the Carleton family to move forward.”
Madison County Assistant District Attorney Jay Town said the state will look at all of their options and will continue to move forward with the case.
“We’re disappointed with the decision,” said Town, who along with Tim Gann is prosecuting the murder case. “We share the family's frustration with this, but there’s no quit in us.”
At the request of some members of the Carleton family, the St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from the murder case, and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office in Huntsville took it over.
“We’re employing all our options,” Town said, adding that one of their options is applying for a Certiorari, or a request for a hearing before the Alabama Supreme Court.
“We’ll keep up the fight until all of our options are out of the option box,” Town said.
He said Carleton family members are looking for closure.
“Either way, we would like their family to have closure in front of a jury,” Town said.
Nail was appointed to hear the murder case after St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson recused himself from the case. Robinson was involved in a pending civil case involving a land dispute between the Carleton family.
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.