published Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Jury clears defendant in tragic Hamilton County shooting

Poll
Do you agree with Kevin Chitty verdict?

The jury foreman stood, holding a piece of paper in his hands.

"Would you announce the verdict?" asked Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

Haltingly, in a choked response, the gray-haired foreman read:

"We the jury ... find the defendant Kevin Lamont Chitty ... not guilty," he said.

Moments later the 12 jurors who had sat for three days and deliberated five hours filed out of the courtroom, heads lowered, nearly all eyes red. One woman wept openly as she walked away.

All refused to talk about the verdict in what all involved call a tragic case.

A few steps outside the courtroom, Jean Martin, mother of paralyzed shooting victim Jerry Martin, railed against the outcome to local media.

"I cannot justify what [Chitty] has done," she said. "My son is totally paralyzed, my son has to live for the rest of his life on a ventilator. He has no life."

But a louder voice soon made her pause.

Jerry Martin's grandmother circled the hallway, waving her hands and shouting, "He's guilty, he's guilty, he's guilty, he's guilty," until court security officers escorted her off the third floor.

"My son has three kids that he cannot take care of," Jean Martin said. "He cannot do anything for them."

Chitty exited the courtroom moments later with his attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss.

Surrounded by more than a dozen friends and family, his arm around his wife, Gloria, he thanked the jury in remarks to reporters.

"My life is back, it's been two years, I just thank the jury for my life back," Chitty said.

Davis called the situation tragic both for his client and for Jerry Martin.

"It's a terrible burden on [Martin's] family," Davis said.

  • photo
    Kevin Chitty talks with his wife, Gloria Chitty, left, and other supporters during a break in his trial Thursday in Judge Don Poole's courtroom for attempted second degree murder. Chitty shot Jerry Martin in November 2011 after a traffic accident, leaving Martin on a ventilator and paralyzed from the chest down.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Chitty had been charged with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the Thanksgiving 2011 shooting of Jerry Martin.

Martin rear-ended Chitty's Ford F-150 pickup truck while it was stopped at the intersection of Jersey Pike and Bonny Oaks Drive, just after midnight.

Chitty exited the vehicle with a .40-caliber subcompact handgun. He later testified that when Martin backed up and began driving forward, Chitty said he saw a gun and fired to protect himself and his two teenage sons and grandson in his truck.

Both of the bullets Chitty fired struck Martin, one in the jaw and the other in the neck, paralyzing him.

Martin lost control of his vehicle, which crashed into a Dumpster.

Two bystanders immediately went to help him. Chitty stopped at the adjacent gas station and called 911.

He told the 911 operator he saw a gun and fired, then said he thought he saw a gun.

Prosecutor Cameron Williams pushed Chitty's questionable perception as evidence that he overreacted by firing at a man driving away from the scene of an accident.

On Thursday two paramedics and a nurse transported Jerry Martin in an ambulance gurney to testify.

Martin said both he and Chitty got out of their cars but that Chitty was holding a gun and cursing at him, which is why he got into his car to get away.

Davis and Hoss repeatedly explained that Chitty was within his legal rights to defend himself if he felt threatened. The pair pushed jurors to place themselves in that situation.

Hoss said it's likely that Chitty's testimony helped the jury's decision.

"Ultimately it came down to Mr. Chitty. He looked the jury in the eyes and told them exactly what he experienced that night, which was certainly terrifying for him," Hoss said.

After the verdict Williams said he explained to Jean Martin that he had put forward the best possible case to the jury.

He declined to speculate about what might have influenced jurors' thinking in the case.

"I respect their decision," he said. "I don't necessarily agree with it."

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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