Simpson: Guilty

Published 7:34 am Monday, June 22, 2009

By By Adam Prestridge
Milton Simpson Jr. showed no emotion Thursday when Escambia County Circuit Judge Bert Rice read a guilty verdict convicting him for the stabbing death of his girlfriend.
The jury in Simpson’s trial, which began Tuesday at the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton, came back with the guilty verdict just after 3 p.m. following four hours of deliberations.
District Attorney Steve Billy and Assistant District Attorney Todd Stearns presented two days of evidence and witnesses to the jury during the trial. Their evidence placed Simpson at his apartment on Ashley Street in Atmore, which he shared with his girlfriend Teoria M. McNeal, on the day she was stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife following a cookout, severing her aorta, puncturing a lung and causing her to bleed to death.
On Wednesday morning, the trial was delayed by 45 minutes following a request for a mistrial by the defense. Carter, advised Rice of an apparent conversation between a juror and victim’s mother in the hallway of the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton.
Rice called for both the juror in question and Felder to the courtroom and under oath both denied any contact.
Rice ruled that there were no "improper contact" and called the jury into the courtroom.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, Stearns explained to the jury what the state could not bring to them was McNeal’s “fear” when Simpson picked up the knife to stab her or her “thoughts” when she was lying on the floor bleeding to death after being stabbed on Aug. 24, 2008. He went on to say that the evidence, tapes, photos and eyewitness accounts the state presented were proof that Simpson killed McNeal “intentionally.”
Stearns continued by questioning the truth of Simpson’s next-door neighbor and friend Paul Ikner, who on Wednesday testified that the last person he saw leaving the apartment was another friend of the defendant, Arthur Lee Williams, who in the past had numerous arguments with McNeal. Williams, who testified on Tuesday that McNeal did begin to argue with him regarding him eating Simpson’s food, stated, “I just walked out and didn’t say anything to anybody, I didn’t want any problems at his house.”
Prior to the state’s playing of a taped interview of Ikner by Atmore Police Department investigator Chuck Brooks, he again said he saw Williams last leaving the house, but on the tape he stated that he saw Simpson leaving the apartment last.
Stearns told the jury that in fact Ikner’s cousin from Walnut Hill, Fla., who McNeal had a relationship with, showed up at the apartment the night of the barbecue, which put Simpson in a “jealous rage” and he later “stabbed Teoria.”
During Ikner’s testimony he confirmed his cousin’s visit to the apartment, “setting the whole thing off” and it was heard on tape that he urged him to leave because Simpson was “crazy for real.”
Simpson’s defense attorney Jerome Carter questioned the origin of crime scene photos and “blood evidence” during his closing arguments questioning the state’s ability to get “fundamental evidence.”
Carter also questioned the credibility of the state’s witnesses, particularly Atmore Police Department dispatcher Ann Bailey and patrolman Jeremy Conn. He questioned a portion of Bailey’s report of her interaction with Simpson the night of the stabbing. She testified on Tuesday that he showed up at the police station during her shift and told her “me and my girlfriend got into an argument and got into a fight and I hurt her.”
Carter questioned the procedures used when she gave her handwritten, signed statement regarding when Simpson turned himself in at the police station, which had wite-out on it.
Conn was the first officer to make contact with Simpson at the police station and Carter questioned the procedures he followed at the station including reading the defendant his Miranda Rights and placing him in handcuffs for “safety reasons.”
Conn added that he asked Simpson not to speak until an investigator arrived, but he did not.
Conn also testified that he smelled alcohol on Simpson’s breath.
Carter also questioned why the case’s other investigator, Scott Walden, was not placed on the stand by the state, and why he and the district attorney recently visited with Ikner.
Billy explained that it would be foolish not to meet with a witness testifying to determine if they were going to lie on the stand.
As for Bailey and Conn, Billy told the jury that they had no reason to “lie under oath.”
Billy added that Walden was under subpoena by the state and that he was “sure” the court would have allowed the defense to call him to the stand, but Carter chose not to.
In addition, Billy removed the blood stained knife blade from its evidence bag and showed the jury how it was an exact match to the knife handle found at the scene of the crime.
Billy then questioned Simpson’s testimony and the loopholes the state saw in it.
The jury was dismissed from the courtroom at 11:13 a.m. to begin deliberations. Prior to releasing them, Rice first explained the law to the jury, which was made up of six white males, four black females and four white females, that the court was also bringing forth a lesser charge of manslaughter. He also explained the differences in evidence the jurors should consider when finding the defendant either guilty or not guilty for both the murder and manslaughter charges.
Rice also released the two alternate jurors, a white male and a black female.
McNeal's mother, Carlie Felder, was later joined by family members in the courtroom where she had mostly sat alone with her head down in anticipation of a verdict.
After nearly three hours of deliberations, the jury was brought back in by request to rehear the definitions of murder and manslaughter as well as intent, according to law. Neither the state nor defense contested the jury’s request, whose verdict arrived shortly thereafter.
Following his conviction, Simpson was taken into custody and transported to the Escambia County Detention Center. He is being held on a $200,000 bond awaiting an Aug. 12 sentencing date.

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