JONESVILLE — A Lee County man was acquitted of first-degree murder charges by a jury last week in connection with the September 2012 stabbing death of his son-in-law.
The jury handed down its not guilty verdict Aug. 9, finding that Sammy McMahon, 47, of Seminary, had killed his son-in-law — Matthew Neal Stallard, 25 — in self-defense.
McMahon’s attorney, Sidney Kolb, said evidence presented at the trial showed Stallard began the altercation that led to the fatal stabbing.
“We put on evidence to show that (Stallard) was the initial aggressor and not my client,” Kolb said. “That’s because you can’t claim you acted in self defense if you’re the initial aggressor.
Kolb added, “(McMahon) has been in jail from Sept. 20, 2012, to last Friday, Aug. 9. He had appeals for bond denied on several occasions, so he sat there for almost 11 months for nothing.”
Kolb said the jury had been given instructions for charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter prior to finding McMahon not guilty.
According to evidence presented during the four-day trial, McMahon, Stallard and several other people were drinking liquor and smoking synthetic marijuana at a store McMahon operated out of his home when the fight occurred.
Kolb said he presented evidence — that was uncontested by prosecutors — showing that Stallard had begun the fight by knocking McMahon off a stool, slamming him to the ground and refusing to get off of him.
At one point during the fight, after managing to grab Stallard in a headlock, McMahon reportedly grabbed a knife that had been knocked on the floor and stabbed him four times in the back with it.
Stallard was also reportedly Tasered by his wife during the incident, but only stopped after McMahon stabbed him in the chest area one last time with the knife, Kolb said.
Prosecutors reportedly argued that the knife wasn’t used in the fight and that McMahon had stabbed Stallard in the back afterward as he was leaving the location where the altercation occurred.
“It was basically a case that involved forensics, and the medical examiner testified that the stab wounds were consistent with being stabbed from behind, but also were consistent with two men being chest-to-chest fighting and being stabbed over the shoulder,” Kolb said. “Basically the jury believed what we said happened, that the stabbing happened during the fight.”
Prosecutors also noted that McMahon had washed the knife in the sink immediately after the stabbing and drew attention to a statement he made shortly after being arrested that “(Stallard) had it coming and I laid it on him.”
Kolb, who was trying his first case before a jury, said he felt those statements did not contradict the defense’s argument that McMahon’s actions were taken in self defense.
“If you pick a fight with a man at his place, drinking his liquor with his friends and you tackle him off a stool and won’t get off of him to the point where you have to be Tased by your wife, then yeah, you’ve got it coming,” Kolb said.
Kolb said his client decided to go to trial instead of accepting a 21-year prison sentence the Lee County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office offered as part of a possible plea agreement.