A McMinnville man avoided an attempted murder conviction, but was still found guilty of lesser felonies on Thursday following a jury trial.
Lorenzo Romell Brown, 34, was found guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault following a three-day trial that started Tuesday.
Brown escaped the top charge of attempt to commit first-degree murder as prosecutors failed to convince the jury that he planned to shoot Jesse Dewayne Palmer before the night of May 27, 2019.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution and defense agreed on one crucial point. Lorenzo Brown did shoot Jesse Palmer on Memorial Day two years ago. Palmer was hospitalized for seven days due to his injuries and lost his spleen, assistant district attorney Felicia Walkup told the jury.
Beyond that issue, there was much dispute.
The seven-woman, five-man jury had to weigh a mountain of conflicting testimony, much of which revolved around whether Brown was justified in shooting Palmer in self-defense.
Both sides pointed to rare consistencies in witness testimony in an effort to prove their version of events.
Defense attorney Daniel Barnes said Brown was in the middle of cooking dinner at his home at 114 West Muncey Street when Palmer approached the residence around 10 p.m. Pictures taken at the scene by investigators confirmed chicken was being prepared.
The defense contended Palmer was the one who was acting aggressively and was extremely intoxicated when he initiated the confrontation that led to him being shot in the yard as Brown allegedly stood in the doorway of his home.
“Jesse ran up to the house and Lorenzo shot him from the doorway as he charged him,” said Barnes. “He was standing within his own residence. It was self-defense.”
The prosecution, however, maintained Brown had a grudge against Palmer because he had supposedly snitched on him. Two witnesses testified that Brown believed Palmer was a snitch and one witness said Brown made a statement in the days before the incident that he would “have to shoot” Palmer.
Immediately following the shooting, Brown tossed his cellphone in the yard and fled the scene. The cellphone was recovered by law enforcement that same night. Brown was arrested six days later in Shelbyville after police actively sought information about his whereabouts.
“Why would you ditch your cellphone?” assistant district attorney Walkup asked the jury. “That’s something you do when you don’t want to be found. He ran from the scene and ditched his cellphone because he knew law enforcement was looking for him. He even admitted he changed his appearance because he saw himself on the news. He admitted he shot Jesse Palmer. He admitted they had problems.”
Walkup also pointed out that during questioning Brown told investigators he would “take an aggravated assault,” seeming to imply he would be willing to plea to that charge.
Defense attorney Barnes said the only two people who witnessed the actual shooting were Brown and Palmer. Brown declined to take the stand in his own defense. Palmer had several discrepancies in his testimony, Barnes noted during his closing argument.
“Jesse says he wasn’t drunk, yet all the witnesses say he was extremely drunk,” said Barnes. “He said he had a knife and he threw it down on the ground, yet a knife was never found. He lied about why he was at the projects, and while he’s lying there bleeding after getting shot he still had the wherewithal to say it happened somewhere else so he wouldn’t get in trouble.”
It is believed Palmer initially lied about where the shooting took place, saying it happened at a nearby market, because he is banned from the housing projects, although that didn’t stop him from visiting frequently, Barnes said.
Brown is also banned from the projects, it was noted, although he lived there with his girlfriend.
In arguing against the charge of attempt to commit first-degree murder, Barnes said that charge requires premeditation and planning. That could not have happened in this case, Barnes said, because Brown was cooking dinner and didn’t know Palmer was going to arrive at his home.
Barnes said Palmer was shot just one time and with target ammo, which wouldn’t be the type of piercing bullet a person would choose if the intent was to kill.
Since Brown’s felony record couldn’t be mentioned during trial for fear it would taint the jury, a separate trial was held on the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after the jury returned its initial verdicts. He was found guilty on that count.
Judge Bart Stanley is scheduled to impose sentencing on Brown on Sept. 8.