The Southern Standard, by Duane Sherrill —
Billy Joe Griffin is likely a free man after jurors acquitted him Wednesday on second-degree murder charges for the shooting death of Chad Nunley.
Instead, Griffin was found guilty on the least possible charge of reckless endangerment with a weapon.
Griffin, who had been behind bars for over a year awaiting trial, received tearful hugs of joy from family members before deputies ushered him to a waiting sheriff’s department vehicle under heavy security amid concerns of retaliation from some friends and family of the victim, who were outraged at the jury’s decision.
‘We on the defense team are pleased with the verdict and I, along with my client, appreciate the way the jury intently listened to evidence and found this was a case of self-defense,’ said lead defense attorney Michael Galligan. ‘Mr. Griffin is truly sorry this had to happen and he is truly sorry for the family of Chad Nunley. He lives with this every day of his life.’
Jurors deliberated for around three hours Wednesday afternoon after hearing two days of testimony. They returned with guilty verdicts on reckless endangerment with a weapon, a Class E felony which carries one to two years, and possession of a firearm for purposes of going armed, a misdemeanor which carries a maximum of one year.
Griffin had his bond, which he was unable to afford before, reduced to $7,500 pending sentencing. However, it is anticipated he will have to serve no more time since the 15 months he spent behind bars awaiting trial is more than any sentence he is expected to receive. His sentencing date is Oct. 10.
Griffin had been charged with second-degree murder, a crime carrying 15 to 25 years in prison, following the fatal shooting in May 2006. Nunley was shot four times by Griffin with a 9mm pistol while Nunley stood near the car where Griffin was a passenger. Prosecutors said Griffin emerged from the vehicle to shoot Nunley, while the defense said Nunley was trying to pull Griffin from the car to beat him up.
While witnesses differed on whether Griffin was sitting or standing in the car at the time of the shooting, most, if not all, of those who took the stand said Nunley had followed Griffin to the car, likely for a confrontation. Some witnesses said words were exchanged between the pair at the keg party while others said nothing was said between the two. The men did not know one another at the time of the fatal confrontation as they were both merely guests at the party atop Harrison Ferry Mountain.
According to Galligan, his 23-year-old client plans to return to college following sentencing to resume his pursuit of a degree.