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Graham guilty of manslaughter

Published 6:03am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Franklin County jury found a Red Bay man guilty of manslaughter Tuesday in the 2011 shooting death that occurred on the defendant’s property.
Hershel Dale Graham, 51, 806A 10th St. NE, Red Bay, was convicted of manslaughter in the Nov. 3, 2011, shooting death of David Andrasik, 41, Franklin 11 North, Red Bay.
The jury returned with a verdict shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday after almost five hours of combined jury deliberations on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
The jury found Graham not guilty on the original charge of murder.
Ken Guin, one of the four defense attorneys who represented Graham in the case, said he still maintains his client’s innocence.
“It’s obviously a victory that our client wasn’t convicted of the original charge of murder, but we were disappointed that the jury found him guilty of manslaughter because this was a justified shooting,” Guin said.
“The message this sends to the people of Franklin County is that you’re not able to protect yourself in your own driveway. If this wasn’t self-defense, what is self-defense?”
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said throughout the trial that the shooting was not justified under Alabama’s self-defense statute and he said the verdict was proof of that fact.
“A lot of times if an incident like this takes place on a person’s property, everyone automatically assumes the person should not be held responsible because of self defense,” Rushing said, “but if you look at all the facts in this case and you look at the way Alabama law defines the justified use of deadly physical force, you will see that deadly physical force was not warranted in this case.
“We are satisfied with the jury’s verdict and appreciate their hard work.
“The case lasted longer than was expected and there was a lot for them to consider, especially since there were several eye witness accounts, some of which were polar opposite.
“We also appreciate the Red Bay Police Department and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation for the outstanding job they did investigating this case.”
Defense witnesses testified during the trial that Graham had tried to settle down the situation that first started between Andrasik, who was highly intoxicated at the time, and Graham’s then-17-year-old son, Elijah Graham.
They also said Graham never left the scene to allegedly get a gun from inside the home, which state’s witnesses had testified to.
Elijah Graham testified Andrasik had confronted him and his girlfriend in the driveway of their residence about two dogs who had run in front of his vehicle while he was traveling past the Grahams’ home on the evening of Nov. 3, 2011.
Elijah Graham stated the argument escalated to the point where Andrasik was yelling, cussing and beating on the hood of Elijah Graham’s truck.
He said he left the driveway and drove to the back of the house to get his father, Hershel Graham, who came outside with his son and his father, George Graham.
Defense witnesses all maintained that Andrasik was acting irrationally and had actually verbally threatened and physically shoved Hershel Graham several times before the shooting occurred.
Elijah Graham also testified that Hershel Graham asked Andrasik to leave their property and actually showed him the gun in his hand and before the shot was fired.
During closing arguments on Monday morning, Guin said Graham was only acting in self-defense when he fired the fatal shot that struck Andrasik in the chest with a .22 caliber pistol.
“Hershel Graham absolutely has a right to protect himself and his family,” Guin said.
“[The self defense] law was written for situations like this.”
However, state’s witnesses said the shooting had taken place out of nowhere and there had been no indication the altercation had risen to that point.
Holly Lewey, a teacher at Red Bay School who was the only person at the scene to call 911, witnessed the incident from her car when she was unable to get around Andrasik’s vehicle, which was parked in the middle of the road with the driver’s side door ajar.
Lewey testified that Hershel Graham left the scene for a short period of time before coming back and firing the fatal shot.
“There was no indication that was coming,” Lewey testified. “I never saw the gun.”
Donald Self, the Grahams’ neighbor who witnessed the incident with his wife, Sue, from their front porch, also said he noticed Herschel Graham go out of sight behind the house for a short time.
“When he came back, I saw Herschel’s arm go up and heard a pop and saw [Andrasik] fall like a rock,” Self testified.
A sentencing date for Graham has not been set at this time.
The typical penalty for manslaughter, which is a Class B felony, is 2-20 years in prison, but Rushing said since Graham had used a deadly weapon in the commission of a Class B felony, the sentence would be anywhere from 10-20 years.
Guin said the defense believed there were grounds to appeal the case and they would begin the process as soon as possible.
Graham is currently out of jail on bond.

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