Monday, November 21, 2011

The Scottsdale Justifiable Homicide, an Analysis of a Tragedy

Scottsdale, AZ—I must say every driver has experienced the rude or inconsiderate motorist make offensive or even dangerous maneuvers. Many of us feel there’s never a cop around when you need one. The urge to take the law into our own hands is one that fortunately passes quickly for most of us.

The event of November 10th at Pima and Pinnacle Peak Roads killed one man and changed the life of another forever. Valley Battery, and used golf cart shop proprietor Paul “Tom” Pearson, 50 apparently became angered at a maneuver of David Appleton, 59 a lawyer. Pearson chased Appleton North on Pima Road passing his by own home on Los Gatos for more than a mile. Pearson caught up with Appleton who fled into the strip mall containing a CVS store to hide from Pearson. That failed when Pearson quickly located his prey.

The larger and younger Pearson quickly exited his vehicle and aggressively charged up to Appleton’s driver’s side car window. Pearson grabbed Appleton by his shirt and throat effectively strangling the older man. Appleton produced a small revolver to deter the younger, obviously athletic and larger stranger. When the sight of the gun did not seem to faze Pearson, Appleton’s options ran out and a single gunshot felled Pearson.

Under the Arizona Castle Doctrine, the law is clear citizen’s have the absolute right to use deadly force to end efforts to invade the motor vehicles they occupy. That right also allows the use of deadly force to prevent any attempts to forcibly extract occupants of a motor vehicle.

Scottsdale police suggest that Appleton was the aggressor despite the fact that the lawyer’s shirt was ripped and buttons were torn away. When police arrived they found Pearson unconscious but still clinging to life next to Appleton’s driver’s door.

Scottsdale police have refused to turn over the 911 tapes of this incident to the media. The withholding of this vital and public information is both curious and suspect

The detective interviewed the cooperative lawyer and without an additional eyewitness, surveillance video and chose not to believe what he was told.

Appleton has no history of violence or participation in contact sports. He’s a scholarly man who does his combat on paper in legal briefs or in courtrooms. Appleton was obviously very afraid of the bully who was choking him. I guess the homicide detective that decided to arrest Appleton went to a different police academy than I did.

Pearson’s temper got the best of him and that lapse cost him his life. More than that, Pearson’s failure left his beautiful wife Vicki along with his three daughters to fend without him forever. I can tell you for sure that these fine young women are in Appleton’s prayers and will be for the rest of his life.

There is no crime here on Appleton’s part but nonetheless; this is a life-changing event for this senior lawyer.

For now this case will be under the watchful eye of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. They must carefully review the results of the Medical Examiner and toxicology reports, crime lab findings and other evidence to make a final determination whether to bring a criminal charge.

Both Pearson and Appleton have strong supporters and right now emotions are high on both sides. This will all be decided on the simple words of Arizona’s Castle Doctrine that spells out the justifiable use of deadly force.

There is a strong lesson here for every motorist. Courtesy can be as contagious as is a great smile. Anger has no place on our highways.


Anonymous said...

It is very curious indeed that we have not heard the 911 tapes. Usually the police cannot wait to get them out on the airways to bolster their position. My heart goes out to both families. There is nothing pleasant here for either side. I do wonder if somehow this incident would have been morally superior if Appleton had allowed himself to be choked to death by Pearson.

Anonymous said...

Excellent column! Well said and with a strong message to stop road rage. What a wasted way to lose ones life... Over what? I enjoy your writing.

Anonymous said...

I knew Tom for years. You need to know he has massive hands and once bragged that he grabbed some pencil neck and choked him to sleep with just one hand. He was one to over-react to confused or rude drivers with a vengeance. I hope they examined Tom’s hands well.

Anonymous said...

Tom Pearson's daughters must now live with the shame that their father died bullying some older lawyer. That will be difficult. They know how tough their dad was especially when picking on smaller people. The Castle Doctrine was made to stop thugs dead in their tracks. It worked in this case!

Anonymous said...

And STILL they REFUSE CCW in Illinois....i just dont get it Paul.
But you can bet your retirement Im packin.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pearson is a creature of Charles Darwin, not being smart enough to live. He thought with his temper and he's dead now. He wasted too much good air in the 50 years he's been on earth.

criminal defense lawyer los angeles said...

This is very unfortunate. It clearly shows that this is an act of self-defense. I hope Appleton will be able to clear his name in this case.