By Karen Hall
A Verona man was found not guilty after a one-day jury trial last week.
Robert "Gator" Grissom, 66, was charged with reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon after a June 26 incident when he allegedly fired a .50 caliber blackpowder pistol toward his neighbor.
"He is the way he is" he feels the way he feels," said Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles during closing arguments. "You have to decide if he committed a crime."
Randles said Grissom had disliked his neighbors since they moved to Verona to run the little country store three and a half years ago.
"He has a bee in his bonnet," Randles said. "There's a lot of bad blood between the defendant and the victim," he continued. The ADA noted Grissom had accused his new neighbors of stealing his fenceposts, and had harrassed customers of their store by photographing them and writing down license plate numbers.
According to testimony, when a shot from Grissom's pistol hit a tree under which his neighbor was standing fishing, the neighbor called police. When Marshall County Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fender responded to the scene, Grissom confirmed he had been shooting. Fender asked Grissom if he had seen the victim fishing, and Grissom said, "Yes, but I'm on my land."
When the deputy told Grissom he could not be shooting with someone down range like that, Grissom said it was his property and he could do what he wanted.
"Your rights end at the property line when you endanger someone else," Randles told the jury. "We ask you to find him guilty."
Defending Grissom, Michael Collins of the Public Defender's Office said, "What happened that day was not reckless endangerment. There was no imminent threat. The witnesses never said they saw Grissom shoot into that tree."
"The victim is asking you to convict on bad blood," Collins continued. "You can't prosecute over two people not getting along." Collins pointed out "huge discrepancies" in witnesses' testimony. He also noted the victim did not run away or get behind a tree when the shots were fired, thus not acting like he felt he was in danger.
"Bobby did not commit reckless endangerment: he never shot in that direction, and did not place the victim in danger," Collins concluded.
"Why not call him 'Gator'? That's his nickname," asked Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, who had the last word for the prosecution. "He's been doing everything he can to intimidate that man. The defendant is an old intimidator, but you can still kill people no matter how old you are."
"All we have to prove is that it was reckless and a man was in danger," Barnard continued. "This system is only as good as you (the jury) are. We ask you to do justice in this case."
A jury of six men and six women deliberated for an hour before returning the "not guilty" verdict.