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Tears loses appeal in nightclub shooting

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NASHVILLE -- A Lewisburg man appealed his conviction and sentencing on an attempted murder charge, but the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial judge's ruling, according to recent reports from the appeals court.

In April 2009, a Marshall County jury convicted Jonathan Doran "Jon-Jon" Tears of the attempted second-degree murder of Gary Dejuan O'Neal. Tears was also convicted on two counts of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession and use of a gun while committing a felony.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Tears to 15 years for the attempted murder, and 10 years on the weapons charges, to be served consecutively, and also consecutive to his sentence in another case, for which he was on parole at the time of the shooting.

Court reports show the following chain of events.

Tears shot O'Neal outside the Soul Train Bar and Grill, at the junction of 1st and 2nd Avenues in Lewisburg, on May 11, 2008. The defendant and victim knew each other because Tears has two children with O'Neal's cousin and, allegedly, their dispute concerned child support. It started with words exchanged and escalated into blows. Witnesses said Tears was losing the fight, and O'Neal had stepped back from him when Tears pulled a gun and fired a single shot, and then ran away. Tears was arrested in Memphis 16 days later.

Tears' 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was later recovered from the roof of a building next to Soul Train by then-Detective Sgt. Jimmy Oliver of the Lewisburg Police Department. Officer Jason Lee had spotted the weapon. A firearms expert from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that the shell casing found at the crime scene had been fired from that gun.

O'Neal told the jury he spent five days in hospital with a punctured lung and two broken ribs. This was a life-threatening and extremely painful injury, according to the doctor who treated O'Neal at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Tears, represented by Michael Collins and Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office, did not take the stand. The only defense witness was an eye doctor who examined Tears about three months after the shooting. According to the doctor's testimony, Tears was complaining about seeing flashes of light and black spots in his vision, which could have been caused by head trauma, apparently, O'Neal's punches.

The judges of the appeals court decided the evidence presented at the trial was sufficient to convict Tears as charged, and that Crigler had correctly applied the sentencing guidelines when deciding the length of prison time Tears has to serve.

"Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court," wrote Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr. for the three-judge panel.