A Milledgeville criminal defense attorney is seeking immunity from prosecution for a Wilkinson County client accused of murder in the 2019 shooting death of a Baldwin County man.
Dublin Senior Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders Jr., who has been assigned the case in Baldwin County Superior Court in Milledgeville has not yet to ruled on that motion. The judge did, however, rule on another matter.
“The court, in conclusion, does find the statement — both the interview as well as the written statement of the defendant — were freely and voluntarily made without coercion or threats of any type,” Flanders said.
The pretrial hearing, which lasted more than three hours, was held Tuesday, Jan. 4.
The defendant in the case, William Chandler “Chad” Weaver, is free on bond. He contends he is innocent in the Sept. 9, 2019, murder of Jody Raley. He testified during Tuesday’s hearing that he shot and killed the victim in self-defense.
Weaver’s defense attorney, Carl Cansino, filed a pretrial motion Dec. 7, 2021, seeking immunity from prosecution for his client.
In support of his motion, Cansino cited case law that states that a person who uses threats or force is immune from criminal prosecution unless, in the use of deadly force, the person utilizes a weapon the carrying or possession of which is unlawful by such person, court records show.
Cansino told the court that the defendant bears the burden of proving that he had a reasonable belief that his use of force was necessary to prevent harm to himself or others.
“The defendant was honestly defending his life, property or the life or property of a third party,” Cansino said in his pretrial motion. “Hence, the above-referenced bill of indictment must be dismissed, with prejudice, as [the] defendant is immune from prosecution.”
Raley and Weaver got into a tussle on the back porch of Raley’s residence on Hodges Lake Road, Cansino said.
“The evidence has actually shown that [Raley] charges [Weaver], notwithstanding the fact that he knows that [Weaver] has a weapon, and so regardless of the fact of whether or not he should have done that or not,” Cansino told Flanders before his ruling. “The fact is that [Raley] charged him, as he was charging, he’s trying to grab hold of the weapon.”
Cansino’s comments came after Weaver testified at length during the hearing.
The defense attorney said testimony from [Weaver] during a video interview with Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office detectives revealed that Raley tried to retrieve the gun from his client.
And that’s why the gun was likely fired since Weaver had his finger on the trigger, Cansino said.
“I don’t really think it matters much whether or not [Raley] accidentally pulled the trigger as he was holding the gun or whether or not the defendant pulled the trigger,” Cansino said. “I think there is some factual dispute as to that. The fact of the matter is there was a tussle and that because of the tussle, because Jody was the primary aggressor, and coming at him when the intent was to keep him away so [Weaver] could call the law. I think that he is entitled to the defense of self-defense.”
Cansino said he believed his client was justified in using force.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale said he didn’t believe there was a disagreement about whether or not the defendant ultimately fatally shot Raley. The victim was unarmed at the time.
“What we’re left with is what led up to that,” Barksdale said. “Nobody else was out there. What this court has been left with is an interview statement and a written statement, and then today for the first time, we hear all of this about the fact that Jody was beating him over the top of the head so forcibly that he fell to his knees. The defendant took the stand today and said I did what I had to do.”
Barksdale told Flanders that the evidence shown at the hearing indicates Weaver shot Raley.
“And so the question, obviously for this hearing, is was he justified in doing so,” Barksdale said. “And the court is left with an ever-changing description of what happened. What we do know, and what does seem to add up is that this was something that happened very quickly; very quickly.”
Barksdale said the defendant had no injuries.
Weaver testified at the hearing Tuesday, however, that Raley struck him in the head several times. He did not mention such when he voluntarily spoke with detectives after the shooting.
“The tense confrontation did not justify a shooting,” he said. “What we have is a shoving match. The defendant knows, in retrospect, he knows that he went too far. And he came in here today and tried to gently massage the facts so that perhaps this court would find that the preponderance of the evidence standard had been met. But I submit to the court that what we’re still are lacking is an unarmed man being shot and killed. What he (Weaver) did afterward — the aid that he rendered, calling 911.”