For more than two years, Brian Keith Harville and his attorney have claimed the shooting death of John "Johnny" Rance Campbell was in self defense.
On Monday, a judge agreed.
In an order issued at 8:24 p.m. Monday, Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig ordered all charges against Harville dismissed due to the Alabama Stand Your Ground law, which says if the defendant can prove by the preponderance of evidence he or she was acting in self defense, they could be immune from criminal prosecution.
Harville had been indicted for murder by a Lawrence County Grand Jury for the Oct. 27, 2014 shooting death of Campbell.
The incident took place at Harville's residence on County Road 500 in Moulton. Campbell had been acquaintances with Harville for several year and was temporarily living with Harville at the time.
The day of the shooting, Harville and Campbell purchased a radiator from a junkyard and installed it in Harville's truck.
They spent most of the rest of the day drinking alcohol.
That night, at the residence, the two became involved in an argument about how much each man owed for the cost of the radiator.
According to Harville, he asked Campbell to leave his residence, and Campbell responded by saying "only after I cut your throat."
Harville said Campbell immediately stood up with an open knife and attempted to lunge at Harville. Harville then grabbed his shotgun, which was nearby the end of the sofa because he had cleaned it earlier, and shot Campbell in the chest.
Harville's attorney, Tim Case, of Florence, argued the state had done nothing to dispute those facts, which met the requirements of the Stand Your Ground law.
In his order, Craig agreed with Case's argument.
Craig's order states: "The court finds the defendant proved by a preponderance of the evidence each of the following:
1. The defendant reasonably believed that the decedent was using or was about to use unlawful deadly physical force against him.
2. The defendant reasonably believed that the use of a deadly weapon was necessary for the purpose of defending himself.
3. At the time of the shooting, the defendant was not engaged in any unlawful activity.
4. At the time of the shooting, the defendant was in a place that he had a right to be.
5. The defendant did not provoke the threatened use of physical force by the decedent and the defendant was not in any sense the initial aggressor.
6. The defendant had no duty to retreat and had a right to stand his ground.
7. Thus, the defendant was justified in the use of deadly physical force that caused the death of the decedent.
Case said this is the first case he knows of in North Alabama that has been dismissed due to a 2016 change in the Stand Your Ground law, which was originally put into place in 2006.
The 2016 change to the law states a person can be immune from prosecution if he or she proves they were acting in self defense.
"There was one in Shelby County, but this was the first I have found in Northwest Alabama and one of only three or four in the whole state," Case said. "We hope this case sets a precedent for other cases."
Case said judges across the state may turn to Craig's ruling as they rule on other potential self-defense cases in Alabama.
"This case has a wide-ranging effect on other defendants who are claiming self defense," Case said. "It's not just murder, but assault or domestic violence cases. If they can prove they are acting in self defense and standing their ground, the judge can dismiss the charges."
Case said he expects the state to file an appeal of Craig's ruling, but anticipates the dismissal of the murder charges will be affirmed in favor of Harville.