Last Modified: Friday, June 15, 2012 12:47 PM
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal vacated the first-degree murder conviction of the man who killed 25-year-old Derris Wilson in 2008, substituting it with a second-degree murder conviction.
A jury convicted Christopher Henry Joseph on Feb. 17, 2011, of first-degree murder. On March 22, 2011, Judge Clayton Davis sentenced him to life in prison.
In his appeal, Joseph claimed the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction and that a life sentence was excessive.
In an opinion released Wednesday, Judge James T. Genovese wrote that Joseph does not deny shooting Wilson, but claims “the killing was justified in that he believed the victim reached for a gun as the defendant approached the car.”
Genovese said trial testimony substantiates prosecutors’ claim that Joseph did not act in self-defense when he shot the victim.
“We agree with the defendant that there was nothing put before the jury that would indicate that he was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of cruelty to a juvenile such that it would qualify the offense as first-degree murder,” Genovese wrote.
He said the state also failed to submit any evidence to suggest that Joseph intended to shoot anyone besides the victim.
While the evidence is not sufficient to substantiate the first-degree murder conviction, Genovese said there is no question that Joseph’s actions were deliberate. The only lesser offense that fits Joseph’s crime is second-degree murder, he said.
Joseph’s case will be sent back to the trial court for resentencing, although the sentence will be the same — in this case, a mandatory term of life in prison.
Genovese noted that even though the penalty is the same, Joseph has to be formally resentenced so he can have the opportunity to file post-conviction motions in a timely manner.