Weyman Wheeler never denied shooting a man who was staying overnight with his estranged wife, but his lawyer argued it was done unintentionally and without malice in a struggle over a gun.
On Thursday, a jury agreed, finding the 46-year-old Gainesville man not guilty of aggravated battery in the May 2 shooting of Nick Causey at a South Hall home.
The shooting occurred after Wheeler entered the home and confronted Causey, who had a gun. According to court testimony, the two men grappled with the gun and five shots were fired, some of which struck Causey’s leg.
Causey, 31, was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital with substantial blood loss from gunshot wounds to the leg that shattered his shin bone. He has since recovered and testified against Wheeler during the three-day trial.
Causey told the jury Wheeler stood over him after he was knocked to the floor and fired a shot directly into his leg.
In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge told the jury the fifth and final shot “was the defendant’s revenge.”
“That’s where the malice comes in,” Aldridge said.
After deliberating for more than three hours Thursday, the jury acquitted Wheeler of charges of aggravated battery and third-degree cruelty to children. The shooting occurred while Wheeler’s children were in the home, prompting the cruelty charge.
Wheeler was found guilty of criminal trespass for convincing his 14-year-old son to slash the tires of Causey’s car.
Judge Margaret Gregory, who presided over the trial in Hall County Superior Court by special designation, lectured the defendant before handing down a sentence on the sole misdemeanor for which he was convicted.
“I’m glad I’m not sitting here presiding over a murder trial — this very easily could have turned into that,” Gregory said.
The judge said she was disturbed by the 911 call made from the home.
“My heart breaks when I hear your daughter screaming and your ex-wife screaming,” Gregory said.
The sound of gunshots inside a home occupied by children would “strike fear into the heart of any parent,” Gregory said.“I hope you think about these things, because you’re the one who has to live with that,” the judge told Wheeler. “I hope for the sake of these kids, there can be some peace at some point.”
Wheeler was sentenced to six months in jail, with credit for the six months he’s already served awaiting trial. He must serve another six months on probation and pay $500 in restitution to Causey.
Wheeler’s attorney, Dan Summer, said outside court after the verdict that there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that his client shot Causey with malice, a required element of aggravated battery.
“Obviously, Mr. Causey got shot, and we regret it,” Summer said. “But I think the jury had trouble being convinced it was with malice. We certainly appreciate the jury’s verdict.”
Jurors were unavailable for comment. Causey and Aldridge both declined to comment on the jury’s verdict.
Before adjourning court, the judge told relatives of the defendant and the victim who watched the trial from opposite sides of the courtroom gallery that she was “very sorry for the situation on both sides.”
“The jury has spoken, and that’s the decision we must abide by,” Gregory said.