By Patsy R. Brumfield / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A female-dominated jury today agreed Lisa A. Sandlin deliberately killed her stepson, Kirk, at their rural Saltillo home.
Judge Paul Funderburk sentenced her to life in prison.
(Come back for more details.)
• • •
(FIRST NEWS – 10:30 A.M.)
TUPELO – Lisa Sandlin’s attorney left her murder-trial jury today with one key thought: Her stepson’s death was an accident.
The state saw it differently – it was deliberate murder by a woman who was mad and wanted him out of her life.
Sandlin, 45, of Saltillo is on trial accused of the deliberate murder of her stepson, Kirk Sandlin, on Sept. 22, 2010. He died of a single shotgun wound to the abdomen.
She admits she pulled the trigger, claiming it was a last-ditch attempt to intimidate him into leaving the home she shared with her husband and his father, Sammy Sandlin.
Judge Paul Funderburk presides at the trial, which began Monday in the Lee County Justice Center. Prosecutors are David Daniels and Dennis Farris. Chris Bauer of Tupelo is Sandlin’s defense attorney.
If convicted of murder, she faces life in prison. Conviction on manslaughter during the heat of passion, a lesser charge, will mean a much shorter sentence. The 12-member jury – 2/3 of them women – also could find her not guilty.
(Below is a running account of Thursday’s court action. Please excuse the typos and other glitches likely as I type/and listen as fast as I can. Come back for updates as court breaks occur.)
• • •
9:15 A.M. – Funderburk enters courtroom. Says he’s re-ordered and re-numbered instructions, as court’s instructions, to help make more sense for the jury.
Judge speaks to the spectators. Know it’s an important case to them. Open and public trials important. But if anyone in audience feels he/she cannot control their talking, emotions or any type of outbursts during the final arguments of the attorneys, I suggest you leave at this time. Better for you, lawyers and court. See a lot of foolishness on Court TV, that some places – California prime example – that court is a circus. I don’t intend for my court to deteriorate into that. But if you feel you cannot control yourself, I suggest you leave at this time. We’re going to be here for some time. If you have a place to go, I suggest you do that. Attorneys have a heavy burden, each side. Don’t like to see lawyers distracted by comment, rolling eyes, getting up and running in and out of courtroom. You don’t do that in my courtroom.
About 30 people in courtroom. No one moves out of their seats. About half-dozen law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Jim Johnson, seated at the rear of the courtroom.
9:20 – Judge, bring the jury in. He tells them they’ve heard all testimony and received all evidence. Will soon instruct them about the law as it applies to this case. Your exclusive province to weigh the evidence in this case. State’s burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Every killing is not murder. If you find Kirk Sandlin was killed in the heat of passion, upon his provocation, you will find her not guilty. (He also tells them they have a choice of heat-of-passion manslaughter.) Put yourself in her place and judge her by the facts by which she was surrounded. Not on defendant to prove his killing was excusable. State must prove the killing is not excusable in the heat of passion. If a reasonable doubt, defendant should be found not guilty.
If fail to find her guilty of murder, continue to consider manslaughter. If she willfully killed Kirk Sandlin without malice of forethought in heat of passion with a deadly weapon, you will find her guilty of manslaughter. If state fails to prove elements, you must find her not guilty. Manslaughter is different from murder by absence of malice or deliberate design.
If person intoxicated, she is criminally responsible for such acts. If she knew difference between right and wrong, and voluntarily deprived herself of that by becoming intoxicated and committed murder or manslaughter, she is criminally responsible for that act.
Each juror must agree to the verdict – all 12.
(MY VIEW – Key for the defense is to convince the jury, or at least one juror, that Lisa Sandlin did not know a shell was in the shotgun, That belief would remove the “deliberate design” feature of both murder and manslaughter.)
9:42 – FARRIS – makes first remarks for State.
Speak for state and for man who can’t be here, Kirk Sandlin, Heavy burden to decide what’s at issue. You’ve heard the same things I have. Want to try to clear up a few things.
First, what do we know about Kirk. Some people say he deserves killing, nothing but trouble, a drug addict. I heard he had grown up at home with his father. When family split, he stayed with his father. Dad remarried, he stayed with his father. Then his new mother, stepmother, didn’t like the way he carried on. But as things got bad, he always came back to his father. That last night on the hill, he was trying to talk to his father. (Farris is wiping tears from his eyes.) His father told her to go into the house and shut up. She went in and got that gun. Did she load it? Did she not? It sure looked like she went looking for a bullet. Box was open. Where did they say it set? In drawer, on armoire? Doesn’t matter. Go to one or the other. Does it really matter? Taking gun out of closet, pointing it at someone you say you’re afraid of, cocking hammer and pulling the trigger, isn’t that enough? If she was so in fear of him, what did she think would happen if it snapped and nothing happened? Wouldn’t he have reacted badly?
I’ve tried to put these photos in an order that will make sense to you. (He talks about logistics of where houses sit and exterior of Sandlin home where Kirk was shot.) You’ll have all these to look at. Here’s the door opening into the house. Now, you’re looking down the hallway and how far it is to get to that bedroom. The time it takes to get there and back, time you’re formulating your plan. She went in there is the closet door. Inside is where shotgun was. Did she go in and get gun and come back? What she said. If went into the room, here’s what you’d see – dresser on right with drawer pulled out, at end of wall that’s where other stuff was set up … on left side was aquarium, see lit of box was sitting here with top open. Armoire sitting, call the jury box. Where Mr. Sandlin said two shells kept, then all of a sudden just one. Coming back out, give you the distance from this doorway to the door – several feet back to door. See back out onto porch.
That’s what Lisa was seeing that night. What was Kirk seeing? Well, there’s a burn pile out there, where Lisa and Kirk got into it. Mr. Sandlin said Kirk was leaving and at edge of porch, Kirk said one more thing to ask, started back onto breezeway, took a few steps, as he comes up, he gets to about where the door was going to be. He looks and sees Lisa, standing there with shotgun, she says at her side. She’s still inside door. What does he do, he turns and looks at her. Says what are you going to do with that, shoot me? (Says it again, louder, sarcastic?) Does it matter? Then, she raises the gun and the barrel comes up in the doorway. Father sees barrel come up. He said, I went for the gun. Then it shot. He said I caught my son before he hit the concrete. She said she went back into the house and called her daddy.
Carey Gaddy gets there, goes in looking for person with the gun. Finds her without gun. Orders her to sit down. Locates the gun. Younger officer tells him to put her in the cr. BEfore that, he said she came down the hall. I shot that MF, I’m tired of his crap. (Lisa shakes her head at this). Jason put her in the car, didn’t show any remorse. Shock? What is all that? She had done her dirty deed. Scotty Reedy interviewed her, she told him she shot him, was tired of his act. It stops the tension between the people. But you don’t end it with a shotgun.
What does John Russell tell you – in the shop, she says I’m going to shoot you. What does that tell you? She probably wasn’t planning to shoot him at that time. But in her mind? She’s been thinking about this. Sammy’s first story, she had threatened to kill him before. In her mind, to get rid of Kirk. She’s thought about that. Probably thought, would be good if he were somewhere else. What tripped her trigger? Her husband, not Kirk. Her husband told her to shut the whatever he said up and go into the house. That did it. She was mad. Been mad at Kirk, not Sammy. She’s going to stop this. BEcause Sammy is so easily swayed, now has reconciled, now his story has changed. Now, he wants her to come back and take care of Nanny even though she murdered his son. He’s willing to ignore it. All going to be fine. Should have taken care of the problem.
Dr. McMaster said died of gunshot wound. Jesse Huskey, wow, isn’t he wonderful? In this strange, terrible situation, he’ll be find. Lisa told you what she wanted you to know. You heard her. Saw her emotions, if real or not that’s for you to determine. You know the truth now – she was presume innocent. She was not presumed truthful. Didn’t know they were all going to change their stories. You’ve heard it all.
Judge has told you that deliberate design may be formed quickly, just moments before the act. It’s not manslaughter, passion – this is cold blooded murder. Because she got this gun (he picked it up) didn’t care of bullet in it. She did. If you want to point it at big bad man – he’s going to take it away and beat you to death. Isn’t he? If you’re to believe that his man is so bad that he is so dangerous. If you really want to get whooped, take a gun at him and snap it. YOu better kill him. (Time’s up.) 10:01.
BAUER – I’m not going to cry for you. Holds his ring, represents promises made. I have a son, I love him but he won’t come between me and her – because I made a promise. If there’s talk about how Sammy changed his story, it’s up to you to decided if he did. When Lisa was gone and Sammy didn’t have her there, don’t you think how he felt about this? Don’t believe his family came to his side. They said divorce her, she needs to go away forever. It was cold. Cool on that night in September, cool enough for a fire. Sammy to come home from work, have a few drinks and relax.
It didn’t stay cool though. Kirk came up there. First time before Sammy got home. Somebody’s got to work around here, Lisa. It ain’t you. She went into the house, finished cooking. Sammy got home and she went out to stoke the fire. Spend time with him. Kirk is back up there, daddy I want a job. Can you help me?35-year-old man still asking his daddy to take care of him and to ignore that woman he made those promises to. Yeh, she’s upset for that. For crying out loud, years and years he’s been coming around and taking. He didn’t go to his mama. Came to his daddy. People take care of him but that can’t last forever. Got to grow up. He never moved on. That night at that fire, it wasn’t cold-blooded murder. She didn’t just go get the gun and shoot him. Think about those emotions. Frustrations with Lisa. Fear from Lisa. What else? Envy, paranoia and the heat of crystal meth coursing thorough somebody’s blood.
Kind of thing that blows people’s hearts up. Doing it all the time. In his right ind? I don’t know. He was wiling to do what he was doing. Wanted this to be his world. Lisa. shut up. I’m the man. Sammy said, Lisa shut up. Didn’t defend her. When she tried to get others to help her, he intervened. Don’t call the cops. They want you to think she planned, decided I’m going to kill Kirk.
But what did you hear? Did you hear a plan, cold, calculated? Nobody thinks Kirk deserved to die – not Lisa, not Sammy. People got rights. Only one with rights here? Got right to live peacefully in their home. Not what Kirk thought. He thought he had all the rights – do what I want to do, people will fear me (makes muscles) dominating. When a person is not able to tend to themselves, they have to take it from others, they have to put those others in fear. I take control of you so you will fear me. Kirk wasn’t afraid of anything. You heard that form his daddy’s mouth – frustrated, spits in her face. This has got to stop. She walked into the bedroom and got the shotgun. She said, she didn’t load it. She didn’t look for shells. Picked it up and went to the door. It was closed just like this, like it is right now. Like it is now, it is not a deadly weapon. Piece of steel.
Farris says, got to be crazy to point gun at man high on meth. Lisa said she thought she could make him behave, that wouldn’t hurt her with Sammy there. Can only imagine having a gun pointed at me. Just that… didn’t impact him. The man’s dying words. He said, what are you going to do, shoot me? Up to the end, a bully. Was going to Kirk’s way or no way.
Daniels said he would prove beyond a reasonable doubt. (Daniels – object) (Judge -final arguments. Jury will make determination. Overruled.) State promised proof beyond reasonable doubt that Lisa, with malice, killed Kirk in cold blood without passion. He tried to get that Perry Mason moment. He stayed after her. She wouldn’t say what he wanted to hear – because it wasn’t the truth. Truth ws she got gun and it wasn’t loaded. Sammy said. But can ask, why shotgun? Why did she point it at him? When she pulled the trigger, she knew it was unloaded. They didn’t keep a loaded gun. She was a shocked as Kirk was. She didn’t change her story. First chance she had to tell somebody what really happened, she said it, even the next day. That night of this accident and next day, the only times that detective even spoke with her. They believed it was on purpose. I’m here to tell you, all the empty shell boxes don’t change the truth of what happened. Open underwear drawers don’t change the truth. Only speculation, of that smiling detective – doesn’t make it true. Not a single thing to show that Lisa did any different than what she said. Only his speculation about what happened.
You’ve seen Lady Justice, holding the scales. EAch of you shortly will be in that position. Individually. You hold those scales. At start, they weren’t balanced – like this (he shows them). Only way to raise guilt up is to pile on the evidence. Did it pile up> Is it clear and absolutely certain that Lisa did the way state says? Or are there things that create some doubt, some reasonable doubt for you.
Daniels will come – speculate at end of it, he will ask you to find her guilty of murder. I’m not going to ask you to find her anything. But to hold the scales of justice in your mind, decide has this evidence to the point where I believe that beyond a reasonable doubt of she is guilty of what state says. You’ve got other options. They all fit on those scales. You decide, whether there’s malice and cold blood. Was there heat of passion. Was it an accident? Was there provocation but nonetheless an accident.
What are you going to do, shoot me? Lisa and I have faith you will do what’s right. 10:17
DANIELS – Clear up one thing, Bauer mischaracterized what I said in opening statement. Said we intended to prove that she killed and murdered Kirk with malice or forethought and deliberate design. Never in this trial used the words cold-blooded. Not in statements or words. It has nothing to do with the law. Something he made up. I didn’t say that. Certainly didn’t promise it.
I don’t think she killed him in cold blood. Think she had enough gin in her and got made enough to get that gun and killed him. I’ve got a story – it’s late on September evening. Out near Saltillo. Family gathered around a fire. Kirk, Nanny, Sammy, Lisa. Kirk says daddy I want you to help me get a job in Saltillo. He’s talking to daddy but Lisa doesn’t like that and says, you’re not going to get a job, not going to work, just mooch off your daddy. Now, this time, Sammy tells her to go in the house and shut up. That makes her mad. She goes in house. What she does, she gets a shotgun.
Sammy sees Kirk walking down, hill, then comes back in breezeway and says daddy, one more thing … he turns and sees that woman there (points at her) standing at door with a shotgun. What are you going to do, he says, shoot me? He asks a good question. Out of her own mouth, she condemns herself. She says, I will. Bang.
Now, somebody says, in asking that question, and pulls trigger, I think you’ve got deliberate design. I think you’ve got premeditation. She made a decision and pulled that trigger. That’s the story.
Let’s talk about the law. If you go to law school with a criminal case – learn elements of murder and heat of passion manslaughter. Murder is committed with deliberate design, with malice of forethought. Did she had malice toward Kirk Sandlin? No doubt about that. He keeps talking that she didn’t have a plan. She doesn’t need one. But our law is common sense. Says deliberate design may be inferred from use of a deadly weapon. You may infer deliberate design. Also, quickly and perhaps only moments before the act. Doesn’t require a plan. Not weeks of planning. Occurs when you make a conscious decision to pull that trigger.
It is true and in your instructions, that if you find that she did not commit murder,you can continue deliberations and may return verdict guilty of manslaughter – if you find that Lisa Sandlin, upon some sudden provocation, a blow or some other provocation, that will send a person into a violent rage, lost control of their faculties, kill somebody because they were provoked. Puts them into state of terror or rage. That is heat of passion manslaughter. Is that what happened here? Nope. Nobody ever said 20 years ago or a year ago, Kirk Sandlin ever put a hand on her. Just her son said she told him Kirk had hurt her.
Let’s talk about the defenses – twofold. One, Kirk was a bad person. Two, it was an accident. Those are their defenses. She sat there and said Kirk wasn’t a bad person. But I spent two hours or my life listening to how bad he was, on and one. Kirk didn’t work. Kirk used meth. Kirk was bad. Sole person to diminish him in your minds to say he was just a Meth Head, maybe it wasn’t so bad. Law makes no distinction. It’s murder. Let’s talk about it was an accident – what Mr. Bauer asked her about. Asked, what were you doing? I’m thinking, what accident? No, he had a loaded shotgun pointed, hammer pointed, she said I will, she pulled the trigger. That’s not an accident. She says, I took full responsibility. Then we hear another hour why she’s not responsible.
Heard a great deal about trying to avoid responsibility. She put her husband in a bad place, her son in a bad place. She is the one responsible. Sitting right there for no other reason than because of what she did. She put herself there. Kirk didn’t. I’ve been a prosecutor almost 10 years – I’ve never heard of Kirk Sandlin until he was murdered. Remember one thing, they talk about what Kirk wanted, how he felt, what kind of person he was. He doesn’t know him any more than I do. Kirk isn’t here to defend himself. They want to banter his name around like he’s less than a person. They’re trying “he’s a bad case.” Kirk had areal mother, she sits right there. Had a family, they love him, I know that much. They expect justice. They don’t want compromised justice. Want you to find her guilty of murder. Will ask you to do that – return a verdict of guilty of murder of Kirk Sandlin. 10:30
JUDGE – Calls 2 names. They are alternates. Ask you to step out of the jury box and have a seat over here.
Ladies and gentlemen, told you from day one not to form opinions. Time is now come to go to jury room and discuss this case among yourselves, as much as you wish, to form and express any opinions you have. I will send back the jury instructions to you. Will ask lawyers to look at items of evidence. Will bring that to you, too.
One thing heard is a tape recording. If you wish to … well, I’ll send it back there to listen to, if you wish. Think that also … pen and pencil will be sent back, paper, to write your verdict on. Whatever that might be. Told you no instruction is more important than the other, but for your convenience, I am placing them … with on top, to a elect a foreperson. That’s first. Second, informs you that all 12 must agree on verdict. Third, gives you the forms of the verdict.
Ask 12 regular jurors to go with bailiff to jury room. Do not begin discussions until get instructions and exhibits. 10:36
• • •
Come back to NEMS360.com for updates, including the verdict.