published Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Manslaughter verdict disappoints victim's family

Jamaal Byrd talks with one of his lawyers, Ryan Hanzelik, during the opening of his trial Tuesday. Byrd is accused of shooting and killing Terrance Etchison at the Wilcox Boulevard Kanku's in 2012.
Jamaal Byrd talks with one of his lawyers, Ryan Hanzelik, during the opening of his trial Tuesday. Byrd is accused of shooting and killing Terrance Etchison at the Wilcox Boulevard Kanku's in 2012.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

Lawyers for a 32-year-old man found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in a four-day murder trial said their client felt relieved at the verdict but not vindicated in his claim of self-defense.

"We believe he was justified fully in all of his actions," said Fred Hanzelik, who with his son Ryan Hanzelik represented Jamaal Byrd in the trial.

But the prosecutor and family of the victim said they are disappointed at the outcome.

"The only thing that jury did today was give all the young people that's out there in the streets causing havoc and shooting and killing and robbing, it gave them permission to continue to do that with this slap on the wrist," said Johnathon Etchison, uncle of the victim, Terrance Etchison, 27.

Video from the Wilcox Boulevard Kanku's showed that Byrd and Etchison encountered each other inside the store. Witnesses testified Etchison threatened Byrd.

Video showed Byrd went to his car, retrieved and loaded a gun and waited before the men approached each other. The video showed Byrd raised his pistol and fired, killing Etchison.

Byrd's attorneys said Etchison had a weapon and friends removed it before police arrived. Testimony showed Etchison may have threatened Byrd in the parking lot.

Prosecutor Brian Finlay said he is "extremely disappointed and a little dismayed" at the outcome.

"More often than not we struggle to get people who were there because of this attitude or culture of 'we don't want to get involved,'" Finlay said. "People have to get involved or nothing substantial can be done about the violence in our community. In this case plenty of people came forward and cooperated."

Byrd faces a sentence of three to six years but is eligible for alternative sentencing such as probation. He's scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 24.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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