Caledonia man convicted again in wife’s death

Court NewsThe Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — An Oktibbeha County jury has convicted a Caledonia man of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of his wife.

Brian Holliman was accused of shooting his wife, Laura Lee Holliman, to death with a shotgun in their family home in October 2008. He will serve life in prison.

Holliman’s earlier conviction in the death had been overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2011.

The latest trial, which began Monday, included three days of testimony by state witnesses. The state rested Wednesday evening and the defense was set to begin testimony Thursday morning.

However, the defense began the day by resting, without calling a single witness to the stand. The Starkville Daily News reports that the jury reached its verdict Thursday evening.

Steven E. Farese, the defendant’s attorney, said it was impossible to know if the verdict might have turned out differently with defense testimony.

“You wrestle with that in each and every case,” he said. “But you have to weigh the pros and the cons and make the strategic decision that you think is best at the time. So that’s what we did.”

Farese said the defendant’s team would begin working to appeal the case immediately.

After the trial, District Attorney Forrest Allgood said he was satisfied so long as the victim’s family was satisfied.

“It’s the people who loved Laura Lee that I’m interested in satisfying,” he said. “If they’re satisfied, I’m satisfied. That’s the biggest thing.”

Farese argued the state hadn’t done enough through its testimony to prove malicious intent, nor had it proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Holliman intentionally fired the weapon at the victim. Farese said the shooting was an accident.

Allgood had encouraged jurors to consider the “whole picture” surrounding the incident, including the Hollimans’ rocky marriage. He noted one witness’s testimony that Holliman had firmly stated that he refused to get a divorce.

Holliman’s earlier conviction was overturned in December 2011, when the Supreme Court said a prosecutor erred in repeatedly asking the jurors how they would feel to have a loaded shotgun pointed in their faces. The court described it as “an egregious display of prosecutorial misconduct.”