Over the years, I have defended numerous clients in criminal court against a wide variety of charges. A recent news article pointed out the difficulties that a defendant can run into if charged with a serious offense involving the wounding of an innocent bystander during a gun fight. As an experienced Birmingham criminal defense lawyer, I know what influences a jury for or against a defendant. The incident that occurred at the corner of Lomb and Cotton avenues in southwest Birmingham is one such example.

According to police and other reports, gunfire was exchanged between two men inside the convenience store of a local Shell gas station. The incident reportedly was precipitated by an argument between the two, which took place around 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, August 20. During the exchange, in which 20 shots were fired, another customer in the store was slightly wounded.

That man, a 54-year-old assistant pastor at a Birmingham church, was reportedly grazed in the left shoulder by one of the bullets during the gunfight. The man refused medical treatment and said he would take himself to a local hospital. A statement taken from the wounded man at the scene indicated that the two gunmen were shooting indiscriminately at each other with little regard to anyone else in the immediate area. Fortunately, no one else was killed or injured during the incident.

The shootout ended as one of the gunmen ran outside, escaping before police arrived. The other gunman who remained inside was taken into custody by police officers. The facts were sparse in the news reports, but I have aggressively defended numerous clients involved in similar situations. Depending on who instigated the gunfight, there may have been good reason for the other man to defend himself; though the wounding of an innocent bystander, a clergyman at that, will most likely complicate that defendant’s case.

It is every person’s right under the law to have his of her case heard in a court of law. As an Alabama criminal defense attorney, I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty regardless of public opinion or appearance of guilt based on the so-called facts disseminated through the media. And while criminal trials do not always result in the best outcome for some defendants, in my experience it is usually recommended that individuals pursue the criminal appeals process when the outcome of the original trial has been less than satisfactory.

Bystander wounded, one arrested in shootout at southwest Birmingham gas station, AL.com, August 20, 2009