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Madison man charged with two capital murders asserts ‘stand your ground’ defense

Copeland

MADISON — A man charged with shooting one victim three times and the other six times, killing both as they sat in a car in Limestone County, will argue he is immune from prosecution under the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Jadon Gideon Copeland, 22, of Madison, is charged with two counts of capital murder in an East Limestone shooting on Aug. 30, 2017, that left Damian Blake Ricketts, 21, of Hazel Green, and Devin Edward Richard, 22, of Huntsville, dead.

“The defendant would respectfully show that his use of deadly physical force in this case was justified, and that he was entitled, as a matter of law, to stand his ground,” defense attorney Bruce Gardner of Huntsville wrote in a motion filed with Limestone County Circuit Judge Robert Baker.

Officers found Richard and Ricketts dead in their vehicle, which was in the driveway of a home on Analicia Drive in East Limestone, on Aug. 31, 2017, sheriff’s spokesman Stephen Young said at the time.

At a preliminary hearing in September 2017, Investigator Rodney McAbee outlined the prosecution’s evidence against Copeland.

Richard and Ricketts were introduced to Copeland at a party because they wanted to buy marijuana and Copeland was known to sell it, McAbee said.

However, when the three went to an ATM to withdraw money for the transaction, Richard and Ricketts did not have the $300 Copeland wanted, according to McAbee’s recounting of a statement by Copeland.

They discussed trading a revolver for the marijuana instead, but that never happened, according to Copeland’s statement.

Copeland told investigators Richard and Ricketts went back to the party later that night and claimed Copeland stole their gun, a small pearl-handled revolver, McAbee said. McAbee said no pearl-handled revolver was recovered.

Throughout the day Aug. 30, 2017, Copeland told investigators, he received texts and calls from Richard and Ricketts, who were asking for their gun back.

One of the text messages used expletives to say Copeland didn’t know who he was messing with, Copeland’s attorney said during cross-examination.

When asked about Copeland’s messages to Richard and Ricketts, McAbee said none of Copeland’s messages seemed threatening.

Copeland told investigators he agreed to meet them and give them drugs in exchange for the value of the gun, McAbee said. Richard and Ricketts, who McAbee said was known by several people at the party to sell heroin, convinced Copeland to buy some of the drug at the party, but Copeland said “he didn’t do heroin,” McAbee said, relating Copeland’s statement.

Copeland sent them his location via a text message and waited for them to arrive, he told investigators. Copeland gave Richard and Ricketts marijuana, ecstasy and the heroin he bought from them the previous night, McAbee said.

Ricketts, who was holding an Airsoft BB rifle in his lap, then told Copeland, “I know you’ve got more. Give us all you have,” according to Copeland’s statement.

McAbee said the Airsoft rifle, which was recovered at Copeland’s house, looked like a real gun.

Copeland told investigators he then “started fake crying, backed up a few feet and started shooting,” McAbee said. Young said the gun used to kill Richard and Ricketts was a 9 mm handgun.

Self-defense law

Alabama’s “stand your ground” law authorizes the use of deadly force in self-defense “if the person reasonably believes that another person is … using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force,” but the defense is not allowed if the defendant was the “initial aggressor.”

Copeland told investigators that after shooting the men he took the Airsoft rifle, went home and burned his clothes in a fire pit behind the house, McAbee said. Both his burned clothes and the Airsoft rifle were recovered at the house.

Investigators determined Copeland was the last person the deceased men talked to through their phone records and went to Copeland’s house on Mill Road in Madison. They found him sitting on the front porch, where he appeared to be rolling a marijuana cigarette, when they arrived around 9 or 10 p.m. Aug. 31, 2017, McAbee said.

He ran behind the house when he saw officers approaching, but was caught about 50 yards from the house, McAbee said. Copeland threw out some ecstasy as he ran that was later recovered, McAbee said.

Copeland’s jury trial has not been scheduled. Limestone County courts on March 13, 2020, issued an order canceling non-emergency court proceedings, including jury trials, through May 1 of last year due to COVID-19, and the Alabama Supreme Court then suspended all jury trials through Sept. 14.

Visitation request

In separate motions filed last week, Gardner also asked the court that Copeland — who has been in jail since his arrest — receive a speedy and public trial and that he be allowed in-person visitation with his parents.

“The defendant has not had in-person visits with his parents since his incarceration,” Gardner wrote. “The defendant’s parents have completed the required vaccine regimen against COVID-19. Because of the defendant’s young age, and the isolation that accompanies being incarcerated, counsel believes that the defendant’s mental well-being is beginning to deteriorate.

“In the interests of justice and humanity, the defendant respectfully requests the opportunity to visit with his parents in-person.”

The court also will consider those motions April 8.

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