Dale County jury convicts Montgomery cop of manslaughter

Montgomery Police Officer Aaron Cody Smith took the stand in his own murder trial. (Source: WSFA)
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OZARK, Ala. (WSFA) -- A Dale County jury found Montgomery police officer Aaron Cody Smith guilty of manslaughter in the death of Gregory Gunn.

Smith will be taken into custody and will remain in jail pending a bond hearing.

Smith was charged with murder, but the jury was given the option to consider the lesser included charge of manslaughter.

After hearing three days of testimony, the jury deliberated for two hours Friday morning. The 12 jurors had to reach a unanimous decision.

During deliberations the jurors had one question for the judge, asking for a hard copy of the law and the elements of those offenses.

Retired Circuit Judge Philip McLauchlin Jr., charged the jury Friday morning, instructing them on a number of legal definitions and elements, including murder, reasonable doubt, self defense and intent.

Friday morning, the judge also advised the jury on the legal elements of consensual and Terry stops. Citizens can decline to speak to police in a consensual stop. Officers can make a Terry stop if they have reasonable suspicion a person has committed a crime. Those stopped in this situation must speak with police, they cannot decline.

The jury heard three full days of testimony before the case was turned over to them.

Reporter Jennifer Horton is giving live updates on Twitter from the Dale County Courthouse.

Smith stood trial this week for the 2016 on-duty shooting. Smith fatally shot Gunn, 59, on McElvey Street in Montgomery on Feb. 25, 2016.

The trial was held Dale County after a series of petitions to have the trial moved out of Montgomery County.

In January, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the defense that a comment made by Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin during Smith’s immunity hearing could influence a potential jury and granted the defense’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus, forcing Griffin to recuse and granting a new trial venue outside the footprint of the Montgomery media.

McLauchlin presided over the trial. He is the ninth judge to preside over this case following a number of recusals.

In opening statements on Tuesday, prosecutor Ben McGough spoke to the jury about the case against Smith, categorizing the officer as a “bully with a badge” who’s had an ever-changing account of the events that led to Gunn’s death.

McGough told the jury the state believes the use of lethal force against Greg Gunn is unjustified.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Mickey McDermott told the jury during the trial they would see Smith was following proper procedures throughout the entire situation.

The state called several witnesses including Smith’s fellow officers and the State Bureau of Investigation investigators who interviewed Smith after the shooting. Testimony included recordings of Smith’s calls to dispatch and the two interviews investigator conducted with Smith.

On Thursday, the state rested and the defense called Smith to the stand. For more than an hour, he broke down the events on the night of the shooting, saying he’d been told to “stop everything that moves” in his district. He stopped Gunn because he believed he matched the description of a suspect wanted for property crimes.

Smith said during a pat down of Gunn he felt a hard object he believed might be a weapon, and Gunn swatted his hand. After, he said Gunn ran, and he issued verbal commands to stop, deployed his taser, and used his asp (police baton) on Gunn to no effect.

The pair arrived at a front porch, where Smith said Gunn grabbed a paint pole. That was when Smith said he fired his weapon, as he feared for his life.

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Read the original version of this article at wsfa.com.