Attorney: Homicide charges may be reduced

Friday, March 6, 2009

A presentation of the state's case to the Marshall County Grand Jury - probably on March 18 - is the next step for Donnie Sullivan, accused in Cornersville's Feb. 15 shooting death of his stepson, Timothy Swaw.

"They may decide not to try him on criminal homicide charges," said defense attorney Walter Bussart, who speculated that the grand jurors could indict Sullivan on less serious charges such as assault and battery or involuntary manslaughter.

"I thought it was a case the magistrate might have decided not to bind over," said Bussart, who argued to Judge Roger Brandon at the preliminary hearing that his client had shot Swaw in self-defense and that it was a "justifiable homicide."

Meanwhile, Marshall County Emergency Management Services Director James Whorley has vehemently denied a statement made during Sullivan's preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

"It's giving the ambulance service a black eye," Whorley said of a statement by Stacy Adams, of Cornersville.

Adams lives near Sullivan, 52.

Adams testified in court on Tuesday that Swaw, 31, of Columbia, waited 45 minutes between getting shot and leaving in the ambulance.

"It was nine minutes from the time we arrived on the scene until we were able to load him," Whorley said. "We had to wait for police to clear the scene. That's our protocol. If someone would have brought the victim to the ambulance, it would have been another story."

Whorley is "not worried" about the ambulance crew's performance, he said, adding there's no way to falsify times. All 911 calls and dispatch conversations are recorded. Times are included.

"We did what we were supposed to do," Whorley said. "He was flown to a trauma center."

Adams is mistaken in his estimate of time, the EMS director said.

Questions have also been raised about the response time of the Cornersville Police Department. City Manager Taylor Brandon said that the day of the shooting, Sunday, Feb. 15, was one of the days when the Town of Cornersville did not have 24-hour police protection. With the number of officers they have, Brandon said, they only have an officer on duty 24 hours a day when no one is off sick or on vacation.

Also during Tuesday's preliminary hearing, Sullivan's attorney tried to get his bond reduced from $250,000.

"It would take everything they (Sullivan's family) have to meet a $50,000 bond," the defense attorney told the court.

"He's going to sit in jail for defending his home and himself," Bussart said, asking: "Is that the American way?"

Brandon reduced the bond to $100,000 and bound Sullivan's case over to the Grand Jury with a charge of criminal homicide.

A county jail corrections officer confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Sullivan remained in jail.