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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Judge grants immunity in Florence murder case

It could take months for the Court of Criminal Appeals to make a ruling in the case.

Posted: Oct 15, 2019 5:28 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2019 7:41 AM

The WAAY 31 I-TEAM has learned a rare immunity ruling in a stand your ground case will not be the final say. That's despite the fact a judge says the suspect should not be charged with murder.

Marcus Weakley

A Lauderdale County grand jury indicted Marcus Weakley in the 2018 shooting death of Patton Shipley in Florence. Weakley has always claimed self defense, and last week, a Lauderdale County judge agreed and granted him immunity.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said they have already appealed the judge's ruling to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Montgomery. Now, the Alabama Attorney General's Office will handle the brief before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Lauderdale County Judge Will Powell is the judge who granted the immunity. It all could come down to two issues.

Those are whether or not Marcus Weakley was the original aggressor and whether or not he engaged in illegal activity when he shot Patton Shipley. If the Court of Criminal Appeals finds either of these to be true, then the stand your ground defense will be thrown out.

"We thought we had a good shot at getting a jury trial on this before the immunity was granted," said District Attorney Chris Connolly.

Connolly said he was taken aback by Powell's 14-page ruling, granting Marcus Weakley immunity from a murder charge under Alabama's stand your ground law.

"We're hoping this is an expedited process, because this was a pretrial dismissal of our case, so we and the family of the victim are anxious to get a resolution and get a jury trial," said Connolly.

According to court documents, Marcus Weakley went to pick up his girlfriend from a party on Westmoreland Avenue in June 2018. Weakley was not invited to the gathering where the person was selling bootlegged alcohol, which is illegal.

Weakley admits he was armed with two guns. He says as he waited for his girlfriend, a man grabbed him from behind in a bear hug, restraining him. Weakley says he shot that man five times to free himself. He says that's when Patton Shipley or his associates began shooting at him. Weakley returned fire, shooting Shipley eight times, killing him.

In his order of immunity, Powell commends Weakley for staying at the scene until police arrived, and even notes he dismantled his gun and surrendered. The judge determined Weakley could not safely retreat.

"Giving somebody immunity when they've committed a crime is a big deal. I think a jury should make that decision," said Connolly.

Judge Powell doesn't disagree. He even notes in his ruling, he would prefer the matter be resolved by a trial by jury. However, Powell said the state failed to produce evidence showing Weakley was the aggressor, which would throw out the stand your ground defense.

Powell also notes, even though everyone in the case was engaged in illegal activity by being at the party, Weakley could not safely retreat.

"I know Judge Powell has followed the current law in holding that someone is before a trial, is ever held, gets immunity and that's very rare," said Connolly.

Patton Shipley's father told WAAY 31 over the phone, it's been gut-wrenching knowing the man who killed his son is out on the streets, basically a free man. Weakley's attorney said he is out of jail and will not be making any comments to the media.

Connolly said it could take up to six months to learn what the court decides. The case could go all the way up to the Alabama Supreme Court.

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