Grayson acquitted of murder

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A jury found a Meadow Lake man accused of killing his friend last year not guilty after a four-day trial this week.

The jury, who deliberated for almost four hours Thursday and Friday, found Jefferson Grayson not guilty of second-degree murder, believing he acted in self-defense the night he shot and killed 34-year-old Leland Snell.

Grayson, 64, told jurors he feared for his life on the July 2011 night and that Snell "came at him like a wild man" before he pulled out a .40-caliber pistol, fatally shooting him three times.

"It's not just a win for Jefferson Grayson," said Tom Esquibel, Grayson's defense attorney, "it's a win for the Second Amendment and the right to bare arms and the right to protect ourselves in our own homes."

Esquibel said the jury came to "a fair, well-thought out verdict."

The jury announced its verdict about 10:20 a.m. Friday after recessing the day before in the evening hours.

Esquibel said Grayson "was moved to tears" after the verdict was read on Friday.

"The jury was a group of the most conscientious jurors I have ever seen," Esquibel said. "They were thorough and attentive with every item of evidence."

Grayson, who is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, testified Thursday he was "dazed and scared" the night he and a group of his friends were drinking and frying fish at his home on High Mesa Road in Meadow Lake.

According to a criminal complaint, Grayson was unhappy after Snell re-entered the residence and an argument ensued between the two men.

At some point, Grayson pulled out a .40-caliber revolver from his waistband to which Snell responded, "What are you going to do with that? Shoot me with it?"

According to a criminal complaint, Grayson shot Snell in the abdomen, shoulder and scrotum at close range. Grayson told deputies his reason for firing at Snell was "he was coming at me."

Grayson testified Snell came back to his residence after persuading the man to leave a few hours earlier. He testified Snell threatened to burn down his vehicle and his home before he left that night.

When Snell returned, Grayson testified that he was scared after the man threatened to beat him up. Shortly after, the two wrestled to the ground and three shots were fired, fatally wounding Snell. He died at the scene.

"I thought he would exit when I showed him the gun," Grayson said on Thursday. "Instead, he chose to attack me."

Esquibel called the prosecution's position "a bunch of malarkey" and convinced jurors that his client wasn't a "gun-waving, drunken man" who instigated the fight.

Instead, jurors believed Esquibel's defense that most prosecution witnesses weren't credible. The defense attorney also criticized the Valencia County Sheriff's Office who "lost or misplaced" photographs of his client that were taken immediately after the incident.

The photos apparently showed bruises and abrasions on the back and forehead of his client that were sustained that night. The jury was instructed to treat the missing photos as evidence in the case.

Esquibel also criticized the state for not having the lead investigator testify in the case. Instead, Valencia County Sheriff's Sgt. Nick Carter testified. Carter questioned Grayson the night of the incident.

He said Snell's blood-stained shorts should have been available to the jury.

"I can't speculate, but I can tell you it wasn't here," Esquibel said.

Esquibel said Snell "burst through the door in full-blown attack mode" the night of the incident. He said his client was acting under stress to try and save his own life.

"There wasn't time to consider the pros and cons of this, that and the other," Esquibel said.

Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay said Grayson wasn't in fear for his life shortly before he pulled the trigger and shot Snell while the two were part of a social gathering that included Snell's live-in girlfriend.

But McKay questioned Grayson's testimony about how he was "leery" of Snell and claims that he feared for his life the day of the incident.

"So leery that you acted as his chauffeur?" McKay asked.

McKay tried to poke holes in a defense that said Snell started the fight.

"You see an altercation and it worried you so much, you invited them over to your house?" McKay said.

The prosecutor said Grayson was able to give jurors specific dialogue of what he said Snell said the night of the incident. But he said Grayson was unable to give sheriff deputies details about what was specifically said on the night in question.

McKay said on Thursday that Grayson told jurors about how Snell threatened to burn down his home and vehicle.

"You didn't tell the cops that (the) night (of the incident)," McKay said. "… But you got it all down pat a year later."

During the week-long trial, several neighbors testified that Grayson was a trustworthy person that would help anyone in need. Each testified that he wasn't known to be a gun-toting individual.

Neighbors testified Snell was walking "up and down the street" that night and that he was in several homeowners' yards when it was dark out.

Grayson testified he kept his gun on the kitchen table, but didn't pull it out until Snell returned to his home. He said that he kept the gun to his side until Snell "came after him" that night.

He also testified Snell grabbed the gun and pointed at his chest during a period where the two were in the physical altercation.

The prosecution painted a picture that Grayson started the fight by pulling out his gun and that he fired the first shot into his shoulder, prompting Snell to come after him.

The defense team said Grayson was "elated" after the verdict was read. Grayson had been recently staying with friends, and at one time, he was living at a family member's house in Ohio after the 2011 incident.

"Now, he can live in peace the rest of his life," said Esquibel.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.