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JUSTICE RESTORED: Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Conviction, Allows Self-Defense Argument

Have you ever heard of a judge saying self-defense cannot be presented as a defense in a murder case? That's exactly what happened to 71-year-old Biloxi, Mississippi resident Harvill Richardson Sr. back in 2011. 

You read that right, a trial court judge refused to allow Harvill to present a self-defense argument - railroading the retired Air Force veteran and church-goer with no criminal record (not even a speeding ticket) into a murder conviction.

A small measure of justice was served this week when the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Harvill's conviction due to multiple errors by the trial judge. According to the Sun Herald,

The Supreme Court ruled the trial judge erred by refusing to let the jury hear a self-defense claim that would have shown Richardson's state of mind. The high court also said the state erred by arguing incorrectly Quilon's violent criminal history could not be used in Richardson's defense.

Quilon had been homeless. Richardson and his wife met him at church and allowed him to move into their home temporarily, but Quilon became "increasingly unwelcome," according to testimony.

Prosecutors argued Richardson instigated the shooting while the men were drinking.

The Supreme Court said the jury was not allowed to hear testimony that Quilon had bragged about being a gang member in San Diego, killing a cell mate and executing a woman he described as a snitch. Quilon also allegedly had warned he could hurt anyone who upset him.

Richardson told Biloxi police Quilon had been looking at pornography on the couple's computer and said he wanted to have sex with Richardson's wife.

Richardson said he asked Quilon to leave but Quilon refused. He said Quilon went into a shed, came out with one hand behind his back and kept coming toward him. Richardson said he fired a warning shot then a second shot, which struck Quilon in the stomach.

According to attorney Michael Crosby, Harvill is relieved to be out of prison (understatement of the year) and back with his family.

"He went from living a free and joyful life to serving a life sentence with all the indignities and living nightmares associated with prison," Crosby said.

"Our Supreme Court did not merely overturn the wrongful conviction, but they set forth instructions which must be followed by the next trial judge, and that gives us much optimism that we will finally get a fair trial."