BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A judge has denied immunity to a man who tried using Alabama's "stand your ground" law to avoid prosecution in the death of an Auburn University football player.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Hughes issued an order Monday denying 24-year-old Markale Hart immunity from prosecution in the death of Jakell Mitchell.
Authorities have said the 18-year-old freshman from Opelika was shot after an argument outside a party at an apartment complex in December 2014. Hart, who was on probation for a burglary conviction at the time of the shooting, was charged with murder in the man's death. He has said he fired in self-defense.
Hart isn't entitled to immunity because as a convicted felon he was prohibited from carrying weapons, and it doesn't appear that he acted in self-defense, Hughes said in the order.
Prosecutors say evidence shows Hart of Camp Hill and his cousin Tyrone Rowe were at a party in Auburn when they saw Mitchell. Rowe testified earlier this month that Mitchell was angry Rowe liked a photo of Mitchell's girlfriend on Instagram.
Hart said Rowe and Mitchell argued and that Mitchell opened fire. Hart said he returned fire using a handgun that another partygoer handed to him as he left the party. Hart has said Mitchell fired first, but the slain man's girlfriend, Ayanna Hughley, said that Hart fired the first shot.
Judge Hughes wrote in the order that even if Hart was carrying the weapon legally and wasn't required to back away from the situation, he hasn't met the burden of proof to establish immunity based on a review of the evidence.
"We're disappointed with the ruling," Hart's attorney Jerry Blevins said Tuesday. Blevins said he expects to decide by Thursday whether to ask a higher court to review the decision.
The shooting happened at the same apartment complex where former football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and a third man, DeMario Pitts, were shot to death during an argument at a late-night gathering in June 2012. Desmonte Leonard is serving life without parole after being convicted in that shooting.