A Phil Campbell man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting a wheelchair-bound Russellville resident is free on bond while appealing his manslaughter conviction.
Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Terry Dempsey imposed the sentence Tuesday but allowed Jerry Ronald Mills to delay reporting to prison as his attorneys appeal his conviction for the shooting death of 70-year-old Robert Leroy Presley. Mills’ bond is set at $500,000.
Mills, 56, 194 Rock Church Road, was convicted April 5 after a three-day trial.
Mills, who was charged with murder, contends he shot Presley in self-defense after Presley threatened him with a .22-caliber rifle.
Prosecutors argued Mills shot Presley in anger. The shooting occurred at Presley’s home in Russllville.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing told jurors Mills should have left Presley’s home when Presley asked him to leave rather than going to his vehicle and retrieving the pistol used in the shooting.
Defense attorney Billy Underwood told jurors Mills shot Presley to prevent Presley from shooting him.
Presley’s roommate, Max Bryant Jr., testified the shooting occurred after Mills and another man came to Presley’s home to question Bryant about a table he had borrowed.
Bryant testified that during the questioning, Presley asked Mills and the other man to leave, then grabbed his rifle and followed them outside. Bryant said he did not see Presley threaten Mills with the rifle.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Rushing and assistant district attorney, Doug Evans, asked Dempsey to impose the 20-year sentence, the maximum for a manslaughter conviction in Alabama.
“All in all, we were pleased with the judge’s decision in this case,” Rushing said after the hearing.
Underwood and defense attorney Jeff Barksdale did not disclose the basis of their appeal at the hearing. They have 42 days to file their motion seeking to overturn Mills’ conviction.
Rushing said he is confident the conviction will be upheld by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
“We don’t see any issues during the trial that will cause this case to be overturned,” Rushing said. “We expect the conviction will be affirmed and Mr. Mills will serve his prison sentence.”
Dennis Sherer can be reached at 256-740-5746 or dennis.sherer@TimesDaily.com.