Bliss hugged an emotional group of family and friends after Circuit Judge Julian King delivered the verdict, clearing Bliss of the charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle and assault in the first degree.
Attorneys Robert Rumsey and Chad Woodruff defended Bliss, and the case was prosecuted by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
“We had great faith in the jury system and felt that Rick would be vindicated once we had the opportunity to present his side,” Woodruff said. “It has been a difficult 18 months for Rick and the entire Bliss family. Robert and I are obviously pleased with the jury’s verdict.”
The jury of four men and eight women deliberated for about three hours following two full days of testimony.
The trial revolved around a Dec. 22, 2010, incident on Whiting Road in which Scott Ray Brown, 47, Zarapharah Bills, 23, and Timothy Jason Roberts, 28, were in a 1995 Mazda Protégé intending to steal copper wire from a Coosa Valley Electrical Cooperative substation.
Bliss and his son, Richard Bliss III, were armed and fired at least three shots into the rear of the vehicle. One of the shots lodged in Brown’s spine, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
In a recorded statement to the Talladega Police Department, Bliss said he and his son retrieved firearms after witnessing two men run from a suspicious vehicle toward a line of power poles. There had been several recent burglaries in the area, Bliss said, including his and his brother’s property.
“We went to pick up weapons because we had been getting broken into, and we thought it was going to happen again,” he said.
Bliss said he was armed with a nine millimeter pistol and his son with a 30 caliber rifle. Bliss said he fired one warning shot during the incident and later shot at the vehicle’s tires when it began to back up toward his son.
Talladega Police Capt. Ronnie Jones testified Wednesday that three nine millimeter and three 30 caliber shell casings were recovered from the scene.
He also said there were two apparent gunshot holes in the car’s trunk and one 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.
Firearms expert Lawden Yates later testified that the bullet fragments found in Brown’s back and inside the vehicle were more consistent with a 30 caliber than a nine millimeter.
The younger Bliss, 19 at the time of the incident, was arrested and granted youthful offender status. The disposition of his case is sealed.
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