Off-Duty Security Guard Found Not Guilty After 1.5 Years in Jail

Off Duty Security Guard Found Not Guilty After 1.5 Years in Jail
Off-Duty Security Guard Found Not Guilty After 1.5 Years in Jail

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- On 16 November 2016, an off-duty security guard, Melvin Stephens, shot and killed a man who charged at him up stairs at his apartment complex. The incident occurred in Austin, Texas. The two had been in a confrontation earlier. The man killed, Dedric Earl, had scissors that were discovered at the scene. Stephens called 911 to report the shooting.

Stephens was arrested and jailed because of statements he made to police. Bail was set at $125,000. It was more than Stephens could raise or afford. He spent over one and a half years in jail, from November 2016, to June 2018. From mystatesman.com:

Defense lawyer asked for testing of bloody scissors found in area of shooting.

Stephens, 49, had no criminal history when he fatally shot Dedrick Earl in November 2016.

A man who fatally shot a man armed with scissors was acquitted of murder and got to go home Friday after a year and a half behind bars.

After deliberating for three hours Thursday, the Travis County jury weighing Melvin Stephens’ self-defense claim needed just 15 minutes Friday morning to return the not-guilty verdict.

“Really happy for Melvin,” his lawyer Robb Shepherd said. “He gets to go home to his family.”

The defense overcame a police interview shown on video to the jury in which Stephens, 49, told investigators he regretted shooting Dedrick Earl and that he “didn’t have to” do it. The two had been feuding at a North Austin apartment complex after Earl and another man vandalized Stephens’ Ford Taurus with ashes from a burned magazine.

But from the witness stand, Stephens testified that he had reconsidered the November 2016 incident and realized his life was in danger when Earl, 22, sprinted up a flight of steps as Stephens was retreating to his home.

The case illustrates the pitfalls of giving a statement to police. It may be helpful to point out evidence that might be missed, such as the scissors. But making a statement without the aid of counsel is a perilous endeavor.

The vast majority of U.S. citizens do not wish to take a life. In the immediate aftermath of a shooting, they may state, as did Stephens, that they regret it had happened, and they are sorry it did. Statements such as that can be used against a defender in the courts. They often are.

Telling the police that you wish to cooperate, but that you have been told not to give a statement until you have counsel, is appropriate. Melvin Stephens spent a year and a half in jail. It did not have to be that way.

The case shows the problem of the time lag from arrest to prosecution to a final verdict in a court of law. The incident would initially have been coded as a murder, because of the arrest. It is unlikely that the FBI statistics for 2016 will be changed, and flip from the murder column to the justified homicide column.

The Gun Violence Archives lists only incidents involving guns, and only incidents that can be verified by police and/or media reports. This biases the data base because it eliminates near all defensive gun uses, which are seldom reported or considered newsworthy.

The Archives includes suicides committed with a firearm as “gun violence”.  Gun violence is a propaganda term because it focuses attention on the instrument instead of the perpetrator, assuming the instrument is the most important part of the incident. Cultural norms, the number of police, the perpetrator's criminal history, and several other variables are more important in predicting homicide, crime, and suicide than is the instrument used.

In spite of the inherent biases of the Gun Violence Archive,  when a jury finds that a shooter was justified, that should be characterized as a defensive gun use.

In the Stephens case, The Gun Violence Archives lists the incident as either murder, accident or suicide. They add in the notes that Melvin Stephens was ruled not guilty. But the shooting is not classified as a defensive gun use.  From the gunviolencearchivecenter.com:

Incident Characteristics 

Shot – Dead (murder, accidental, suicide)

Notes

1 killed. suspect init arrest, found not guilty of murder charge

Perhaps it is early, and the Archives will change the classification of the event.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch


About Dean WeingartenDean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 16 thoughts on “Off-Duty Security Guard Found Not Guilty After 1.5 Years in Jail

    1. NOBODY has mentioned the real reason. The DA, Mayor and the city are anti gun. The politics in Austin is as bad a Khalifornia. If you all recall that city/county are the ones that TRIED to prosecute the former Governor of Texas. The whole city plus Houston is full of hillary loving fools.

    2. Whatever happened to a SPEEDY trial? Eighteen months in the CrowBar Hotel is NOT “sppedy” by any twist of words.

      There should have been a preliminary hearing within two weeks or at most a month, at which point a plea for release OR should have been made. He owns property, has family, no priors, not a flight risk. Seems the Austin PD went all Tough Guys on this one. They KNOW how to question a guy under stress to get enough words to charge. SOMEBODY was buking for a riase or promotion. This poor guy paid the price. And the People of Austin. How much did this trial cost them? Tens of thousand, no doubt.

      WOnder if he has enough grounds to sue for false arrest and/or improsinment. He should make a strong case he should have been released. Even with an ankle bracelet monitor, he could have gone about his daily business waiting this out, rather than rotting behind bars.

      1. Courts are so overwhelmed for the last few decades that anything under 2 years is normal for murder cases. As soon as charges are dropped they generally released within a day or two. However since the case was not clear cut at the get go from evidence it went to trial.

    3. An illegal can get off of killing an innocent girl in commiefornia because his lawyer said it was an accident, he even stole the gun he used. This guy gets nailed and goes to jail because he defended himself. If you were a kid growing up today wouldn’t you be confused as to what is legal and acceptable. Cops act like your friend until they get you to say something they can use against you.

    4. His real crime was not being Hillary, who walks around free, regardless of the THOUSANDS of felonies she has committed…

    5. Didn’t our fore-fathers come to this (and start) a new country BECAUSE of unfair laws over there? The poor always got the SHAFT while the rich got RICHER .For them,CRIME DID PAY. Nothing has CHANGED.

      1. @rich, No, the Pilgrims and the Puritans came to North America because of religious persecution. They wanted to think their thoughts and worship their way. The English crown did not want them to.

    6. How different IF he had said, “I regretted HAVING TO shooting Dedrick Earl and that [ I wish I ] didn’t have to” do it.
      A lawyer would have had him say the “right thing.” A lawyer should have gotten him released on his O.R.

    7. His mistake was talking to the cops. Never ever tell them anything without a lawyer first. Not even a traffic accident, as I found out the hard way.

    8. And since it hasn’t been changed on record from murder to justifiable homicide, he will be considered a felon until it is & not allowed to own, purchase or possess a gun. All the other points about his lost pay, wrongful inprisonment & time from family, will probably never be rectified…especially his family time.
      I’m convinced…never tell cops shit without an attorney.

    9. I am glad he is at home with no charge against him. NOW, who will pay for the WRONGFUL imprisonment? Who will pay his BACK PAY that is DUE to HIM? Who will pay for the destruction of his LIVELIHOOD?

    10. It is quite a shame but unfortunately justice is considered to be blind. That is how the innocent and the not guilty wind up in prison.
      I set someone straight years ago in the legal industry for saying, “If they weren’t guilty of something then they would not be prison.” I explained to this young idiot that the system knows that somewhere around +\- 25% of all prisoners in this country are innocent. Most being incarcerated for being poor with the inability to hire a good defense attorney. The others are made to plea bargain, have incompetent representation, a jackass judge or the court system itself has misfiled, lost, (the LE) suppressed and/or mislead the judge and/or jury.
      This nation’s prison system is a racket corrupt to the core. The judicial system is retarded and cumbersome The rich go free… the poor go to jail.
      He will most likely not receive any recompense for his troubles. Only a few national jurisdictions have some type compensation for miscarriages of justice in place. The years lost are unrecoverable and restitution is never seen.

    11. Where’s the social justice outrage for a man taken from his family for a year and a half just for defending his life?

      The uproar we hear about separating families of illegal immigrants is non stop but nothing for a citizen who broke no laws

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