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VERNON — Jurors in the murder retrial of Stephen L. Gilmore, which opened Wednesday, heard differing opinions about the circumstances of the shooting and whether he tried to give first aid to the victim.
Gilmore, 59, of Commiskey is accused of shooting Billy Akers, his former stepfather, on Feb. 18, 2005, following a dispute over utilities.
In August 2005, Gilmore was found not guilty of murder at the conclusion of a six-day trial; he is being retried because that trial resulted in a mistrial when the jury failed to reach consensus on a lesser charge of reckless homicide.
The prosecution and defense presented their opening arguments Wednesday, and testimony from the first of the trial’s witnesses was offered.
Gilmore maintains that he shot Akers in self-defense as Akers tried to force his way into the home of Gilmore’s mother and Akers’ former wife, Beverly Akers. Gilmore had been watching over his mother’s property while she was in the hospital.
In his opening argument, Barry Brown, the special prosecutor in the case, informed the jurors, who were selected from Ripley County, that Akers was shot in the back as he walked away from Gilmore.
Brown, who is a former Monroe County prosecutor, added that Gilmore’s statements to police in 2005 as to details of the incident were at times ambiguous and inconsistent from interview to interview.
“You will conclude that a claim of self-defense is bogus,” Brown said.
Gilmore’s attorney, Aaron Edwards, in his opening argument emphasized that his client did not flee the scene after the shooting, but instead called 911 and rendered to Akers what aid he could until emergency personnel arrived.
Gilmore was merely protecting himself from Akers’ unprovoked aggression, Edwards said.
When Gilmore saw Akers marching up his driveway he believed the man meant him harm based on his knowledge of Akers’ temper. Akers also blamed Gilmore for his divorce from Beverly Akers, Edwards added.
“Steve was exercising his constitutional right to defend himself,” he said.
Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Duckworth, who at the time worked for Jennings County’s department and was the first to arrive at the scene of the shooting, was the trial’s first witness.
Duckworth testified that he arrived to find Gilmore hunched over Akers, who was lying unresponsive and face down outside the home.
Under questioning by Edwards, Duckworth testified that Gilmore was holding a cell phone in one hand and Akers’ right arm in his other when he pulled up to the scene.
Jurors saw what Duckworth and Edwards discussed in footage taken from the dashboard camera mounted in Duckworth’s squad car.
Edwards implied that it was clear that his client was rendering aid to Akers and asked Duckworth if he agreed.
“He was holding on to his (Akers’) right arm,” Duckworth replied.
“For what purpose, I don’t know,” he said.
The trial continues at 9 a.m. today with more testimony from witnesses for the prosecution including an Indiana State Police crime scene technician who processed the scene of the shooting.
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