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Murder jury acquits Callahan
Morgan Circuit Court panel believes 2006 shooting of Cullman man was self-defense

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

A Morgan County jury sent Mark Anthony Callahan home Friday to raise his five children.

The jury acquitted Callahan, 38, in Circuit Court of murder in the July 1, 2006, shooting death of Ricky Gilley, 30, of Cullman.

The jury believed the shooting was in self-defense.

"He's certainly elated and just wanted to get home with his children," Callahan's attorney, Larry Madison, said after the verdict.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Matthews scrutinized Callahan's testimony about what happened the night of the shooting.

Callahan said he feared for his and his five children's lives. He said Gilley had gotten Callahan's gun and threatened him. He said he managed to wrestle the gun away and shot Gilley.

Callahan said an argument between him, Gilley and his girlfriend preceded the shooting.

Gilley's girlfriend, who is also Callahan's first cousin, testified that Callahan rubbed her leg and that is what caused the fight.

Testimony revealed that the three had consumed one bottle of liquor and had started on another bottle before the shooting. A pathologist testified that Gilley died from a gunshot wound to the chest. He said the shooting occurred at close range, no more than 21/2 feet away.

Madison used that testimony to argue his case, saying it proved Callahan wrestled the gun from Gilley.

Matthews told the jury that Callahan could have walked away and that there was no sign of a fight inside Callahan's home at Somerville.

"Cussing someone doesn't justify killing them," Matthews argued. "You tell him today he's not justified. He's guilty of murder."

Madison told the jury that Callahan didn't have to leave his home.

"This man was in his home and his children's home," Madison said.

He asked the jury for an acquittal, and a little less than an hour later the jury returned the verdict.

Circuit Judge Steve Haddock discharged Callahan and told him he was free to go.

He left the courtroom and, on the way out of the courthouse, kissed two of his five children whom he said he is raising alone.

Callahan told the jury Thursday that his wife abandoned him and the children more than a year ago when she left with another man.

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