Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Fort Worth, Texas

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of May 2, 2006
Man acquitted for fatally shooting acquaintance

A 39-year-old Fort Worth man accused of fatally shooting an acquaintance during a fight over a borrowed car was acquitted of murder Tuesday after jurors found that he acted in self-defense.

Jurors in visiting Judge C.C. “Kit” Cooke’s court deliberated about an hour and a half before finding Ellis Dewayne Sample not guilty in the Aug. 29, 2004, death of Kendale Fredrick, 33.

Sample — who has been out on bail but on house arrest while awaiting his trial — left the courtroom shortly after the verdict.

“I saw him crossing the street with his wife, headed home,” said defense attorney Bill Harris, who defended Sample with Stephanie Patten.

Prosecutor Jesse McClure, who tried the case with Shannon Prellwitz, was out of the office and unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Harris said the evidence showed that Fredrick was a violent drug dealer who had been looking for Sample for about 24 hours, trying to retrieve a 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis that he had lent him.

Harris maintained that Sample, who sometimes did mechanic work for Fredrick, didn’t return the car because it broke down and later, after it was repaired, ran out of gas.

“Fredrick thought he was joyriding in the car,” Harris said.

Fredrick, who had been threatening to kill Sample, eventually found him in the 3300 block of Strong Avenue. Harris said Sample testified that Fredrick punched him three times and then reached into the car. As he did so, a gun fell to the ground, Harris said.

At that point, Sample, believing that Frederick had a second gun, grabbed the weapon and fired twice, killing Fredrick, Harris said.

“He shot him because he thought his life was in danger,” Harris said.

Harris said prosecutors called two witnesses who testified that Sample already had a gun on him and fired during the confrontation, a theory that jurors either didn’t believe or had a reasonable doubt about.

After the verdict, Sample, who has convictions in Tarrant County for burglary and robbery by threat, wept.

“He was looking at probably getting a lot of time in the penitentiary, maybe even a life sentence” if he had been convicted, Harris said.

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