Was the Cortez Waller shooting self defense or murder?
See video of shooting at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoALOGnl76A
At the end of a day that saw the jury deliberating for
nearly eight hours for a trial that lasted four days, Cortez Waller
walked out of the court room a free man. Judge Charles “Ed” Clawson read
the verdict forms from the jury and declared Waller not guilty of
murder in the second degree of Christopher Childress and the aggravated
assault of Lana Peterson just after 7:30 p.m. Friday evening.
The news came a few hours after emergency personnel were called to
the courthouse to treat Waller, who collapsed while waiting for the jury
to decide his fate. A close family friend said Waller had not been able
to eat anything in days and was reacting to the stress of the
Security had been enhanced during the last day of testimony in
anticipation of a verdict, and after Clawson read the verdicts, he
instructed Waller’s attorneys, Frank Shaw and William Luppen, to escort
Waller and his family to their vehicles.
They were accompanied by several members of law enforcement,
including Conway Police Chief A.J. Gary. When Waller and his family had
left the parking lot, the Childress family were also escorted out to
When the verdict was announced, Childress’s fiance, De Randa Carter
sobbed openly and could be heard sobbing as she was escorted from the
courtroom. Childress’s mother shook her head in disbelief as Waller
walked past her to his family and exited the courtroom.
When his client was safely on his way from the courthouse, Shaw commented on the events of the last four days.
“This has been a very emotional and difficult week for both families,
the jurors, court personnel and all of the lawyers,” he said. “It was a
case that was on video, yet as the facts and circumstances prior to the
event unfolded, it obviously became clear to the jury that Cortez was
justified in his actions. Every person as the right to defend himself.
This jury has reaffirmed this principle. This is what we hoped for and
plead this case for. This verdict is what Bill Luppen and I personally
believed would be the right result.”
Shaw also commented on the heightened security for the final day of the trial.
“I have never seen this level of security before for a trial in this
courthouse,” he said. “I’d like to thank the Faulkner County Sheriff’s
Department and the Conway Police Department for maintaining order
throughout the day.”
Cody Hiland, 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, said he respects the decision the jury made.
“The key piece of evidence in the case was the video and after
studying the video, the jury found that the shooting was justified,”
Hiland said. “We appreciate the jury’s service to the community and
respect their decision.”
During summations earlier in the day, deputy prosecutor Angela Byrd
reminded the jury of the choices Waller made leading up to and during
“Mr. Waller drove to the police station and parked in a spot of his
choice,” she said. “He was in control of what he did. He could have
locked his car and found his phone to call 9-1-1 instead of getting out.
He gets angry when he’s disrespected and he shot Chris Childress.”
Waller’s attorney William Luppen said Waller would have to have taken extra measures to complete the options Byrd outlined.
“Mr. Waller was scared,” Luppen said. “By Ms. Byrd’s own admission,
Mr. Childress came looking for a fight. To do all of the things that she
outlined, my client would have had to have been a member of Seal Team
While speaking with the jury, Byrd attempted to paint Waller in a selfish light.
“It’s all about him,” she said. “He only cried when he was thinking about what was going to happen to him.”
Shaw addressed the jury and reminded them of Childress’s actions prior to the shooting.
“He wasn’t coming to say ‘Howdy’,” Shaw said. “The man put him in a box. What would you do if you were my client?”
In an elaborate attempt to disprove the point made by the prosecution
that Childress did not have a knife when he got out of his vehicle when
he confronted Waller, Shaw began pulling knives from his pockets and
laid them down for the jury to see.
He made his point by saying that “just because you couldn’t see the knives, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have them.”
The jury asked several questions of the judge and attorneys for both
sides during the time they deliberated and ended the day being told by
Clawson that he would excuse them from jury duty for the remainder of
the quarter based on the difficulty of the decision they had made.
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