After more than two hours of testimony, nothing is resolved in the case of the fight at Bayou La Batre | Mobile County Alabama News
BAYOU LA BATRE, Alabama (WALA) – Lawyers for Theodore High School football coach Eric Collier called witnesses and released surveillance video in an attempt to convince a judge they were acting in self-defense during a fight in May.
Bayou La Batre municipal judge L Daniel Mims suspended the hearing and said he would set a new date to hear additional testimony.
In this state, the defense has the burden of proof to show that the charges should be dismissed under Alabama’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
The case has attracted wide attention due to the prominence of one of the defendants, Collier, who is also Theodore’s athletic director.
The allegations stem from a confrontation that began on Dauphin Island on May 8. Collier’s teenage son Grant Collier and others boating had a physical altercation with a second group of boaters. Both sides returned to Bayou La Batre later in the day. The trainer and some of his relatives were waiting and, according to prosecutors, ambushed people in the other boat.
Bayou La Batre Police have filed assault charges against Collier, his brother Shawn Jerome Collier and his two adult sons, Wayne Eric “EJ” Jr. and Hayden Aaron Carter
But lawyers for the defendants say their clients were defending themselves. Jonathan Cunningham testified that he was fishing near the docks that afternoon when he saw the boats arriving. He said the people from the second boat immediately jumped up and went after the coach, pulling him into the water.
“It seemed that those on this boat were the most aggressive. … It was pretty wild there, ”he said.
Cunningham testified that one of the people in this group recovered a gun from a car and shot about 13 times.
Melissa Collier, wife of former Alabama law enforcement agency director Spencer Collier, said she walked to the docks after learning her nephew had been dumped on Dauphin Island. Collier, the coach’s sister-in-law, said she could recognize the people depicted in surveillance footage from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. She testified that she specifically recognized the man who fired.
“He threw the first punch at Eric,” she said.
Hunter Lee Hinton, one of the alleged victims, testified that the coach grabbed the legs of a friend, who then hit him in self-defense. Later, however, he admitted that he couldn’t be sure who grabbed his friend’s legs. And he admitted that, based on a threatening text message he received from Hayden Collier, he arrived at the docks expecting a confrontation.
“I knew there would be an altercation,” he said. “I had no idea it would be at this point.”
Hinton said he was beaten and had to see a doctor at the hospital.
City Attorney Brent Day declined to comment after Wednesday’s hearing. Dennis Knizley, an attorney for the coach, said he believed the defense had shown the defendants were acting in self-defense.
“I think the fisherman was very important, Mr Cunningham was a very important witness,” he told reporters. “He was totally independent, didn’t know anyone, didn’t know anyone; came, saw what happened, said obviously the people on the boat were the aggressors, and obviously they beat or jumped on Coach Collier and he was just defending himself .
Jason Darley, the lawyer representing EJ Collier, argued that the video showed his client did not commit violence until after the other group did so.
“It’s a bit of a scrum,” he said outside the courtroom. “But many witnesses have said repeatedly that when someone from that boat threw the first punch, it was at the start of the altercation.”
If the judge decides for the defense, he will end the case. Otherwise, the case would go to trial. The judge suggested that depending on the number of witnesses, it might take some time to complete the remainder of the hearing.
“This is likely to play out like OJ’s trial,” he joked, referring to the notorious murder trial of former NFL star OJ Simpson.
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