HAZARD – A jury recommended a 10-year sentence for a Perry County man originally charged with attempted murder stemming from a 2010 shooting that left another man seriously injured.
The jury found 38-year-old Tracy Napier of Bonnyman guilty of first-degree assault Tuesday evening following a deliberation that lasted nearly six hours. First-degree assault carries a minimum of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of 20 years.
Napier shot a man identified as Carl Holbrook several times following an altercation near Napier’s home on Napier Cemetery Road in September 2010. According to testimony during the trial from Paul Wooton, who was with Holbrook at the time of the shooting, Holbrook was unarmed when Napier shot him first in the leg, and only returned fire after Wooton tossed him a pistol.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Reed declined to comment on the verdict, but did pursue a conviction on the attempted murder charge during trial, which she noted was supported by the evidence showing that while Holbrook was lying on the ground, Napier fired several more shots before leaving the scene. The spent bullets recovered at the scene, Reed noted, were all located on the ground where Holbrook was also found.
“The physical evidence supports that charge, that the defendant was standing right above him, with the gun pointed directly down, and he shot him,” Reed said.
Though Reed said that it was clear that Napier emptied his pistol in an attempt to kill Holbrook, defense attorney John Hansen said the incident was an obvious case of self-defense, as it was clear that Holbrook and Wooton, with a firearm in their truck, followed Napier to his home before the shooting occurred. And according to Napier, Holbrook was armed with a pistol before the altercation took place.
Hansen said he was genuinely surprised by the jury’s verdict, and pointed out that tests showed Wooton was the only person at the scene who had gun residue on his hands, making it appear that Napier was facing two people instead of just Holbrook.
“I understand the jury made the decision, but I’m shocked,” Hansen said. “And it should shock Perry Countians as a whole.”
The verdict could have ramifications in future cases in which the defendant was acting solely in self-defense on his own property, he continued.
“If I was commonwealth’s attorney, to be honest with you, I would have prosecuted the two that pursued Tracy Napier,” he said. “That is a given. I would have prosecuted the people that pursued Tracy Napier to his home.”
There will be an appeal of the conviction, Hansen added, and he thinks Napier has a good chance of winning the appeal based upon the evidence. “I thought we showed that, clearly beyond any doubt at all, Tracy had no other choice than to act in self-defense.”
Tuesday’s verdict brought to an end a nearly two-year case which was first brought to trial last summer, ending in a mistrial when a jury was unable to reach a verdict. Napier was released on home incarceration following the mistrial, but is currently in the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard while he awaits formal sentencing, scheduled for September 6.