A Criminal Court jury on Friday afternoon returned two not guilty verdicts in the case of a shooting that left a Chattanooga man a quadriplegic.
The jury found Kevin Chitty innocent of charges of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault. The jury foreman's voice broke as he read the verdicts in the highly-emotional case.
The victim, Jerry Martin, had been wheeled into the courtroom on a bed attached to his ventilator to testify the previous day.
Judge Don Poole asked both sides not to have an outburst after the announcement of the verdicts in what he called a "tragic, tragic situation."
But there was plenty of emotion outside as the victim's grandmother ran up to Chitty family members and shouted, "He's guilty."
The victim's mother said, "It's not over. That's all I've got to say." She said also, "We have no life. We take care of our son 24 hours a day. It is very hard for me to see my son like this. He does not deserve this."
The mother also said of Chitty, "I'm going to ask God to forgive him for what he done."
The Chittys spoke briefly, while they were flanked by their attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss. Chitty said he was "thankful to have my life back after two years."
Attorney Davis said afterward, "Kevin Chitty, Gloria Chitty and the entire Chitty family thank this jury for their dedication and service over this past week in an emotional and tragic case. By their verdict, the jury has spoken. Kevin Chitty is not guilty."
When the families of both men started to arrive in the courtroom on Thursday for the Martin testimony, Judge Poole had the Chitty family sit on the right and the Martin family on the left to avoid any confrontation.
Martin gave his account first, and his perspective of the Thanksgiving incident was very different from the defendant's. Prosecutor Cameron Williams questioned him and went through Martin's past criminal record. Martin had previously been charged with aggravated assault for shooting a woman and with reckless endangerment for shooting at a woman but not hitting her.
Martin said that when he hit Chitty's truck at Jersey Pike and Bonny Oaks Drive, he had had a few beers but was not drunk. He acknowledged that he did not have insurance and had been driving without a license.
He said that after hitting Chitty's truck, he walked outside his car. He said Chitty got out of the truck angry and holding a gun. Martin said, “I saw the gun so I backed up in my car and fled.” Not long after he started to drive away, he said, “I went numb. I ran into a tree and dumpster. That's how I stopped.”
When prosecutor Williams asked Martin about his injuries, he responded, “Look at me. I'm paralyzed for life...I've still got the bullets in me.” When asked about his quality of life since the shooting, he said, “I can't feed myself, I have to be fed.” Martin has three children, and he pointed out that he can no longer play with them.
Next, Martin was cross-examined by defense attorney Lee Davis. Mr. Martin responded aggressively to Attorney Davis' questions about his prior charges, demanding, “What that got to do with this man shooting me?” and later, “Why do you keep asking me the same questions, man?”
Martin continued to say that he and Chitty had had an argument and that Chitty “had all intentions to shoot me.” He also said that he never had a gun with him. Attorney Davis pointed out that if Mr. Martin knew he was driving illegally, then he would have known that he would have been arrested if he had stayed at the scene and waited for police. Martin denied fleeing because of this and accused Attorney Davis of trying to twist the facts. He declared, “That man shot me for nothing, that's what happened.”
When 45-year-old Kevin Chitty took the stand, the jury heard a much different story. Chitty maintains that he only shot in self-defense and was trying to protect his family. He said “(Martin) drove up beside me and pointed the gun at me.”
He also maintained that he never had an argument with Martin. He said that Martin stayed in the car, and that he did not pull his gun out of his pocket until Martin pointed a gun. No gun was found in Martin's Oldsmobile, but Jalen and Nicholas Chitty both testified that they saw Martin pointing something. However, this all took place at night.
Chitty said, “I was afraid I was going to get shot. My wife, my kids, my whole family was out there.”
Prosecutor Williams asked Chitty if he was angry after the wreck, but Chitty claimed he was not. He said that he had been rear-ended before and that he had insurance, so he was not worried about the car. Chitty said that he was not startled until Martin backed up and started driving in his direction. The prosecutor continued to question Chitty on whether he actually saw a gun or if he only thought he saw a gun.
The 911 recording was played. At the first of the tape, Chitty said that a man had pulled a gun on him, but later in the tape he said he thought a man pulled a gun on him.
Chitty then testified that he saw a gun. Prosecutor Williams asked him, “Your intention was to survive. How would firing the gun accomplish this?” Chitty said he thought that a man was about to kill him or someone in his family. Upon hearing the 911 tape, Chitty started to become emotional.
Chitty, who is charged with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault, was the last person to testify, then the case went to the jury after closing arguments.
The jury deliberated an hour and a half, then stopped for the night. The panel resume its talks on Friday at 9 a.m. and delivered the verdicts shortly before 1 p.m.