Storm cleared of all charges
Saturday, August 28, 2010 4:59 AM
Jurors found Derin Storm not guilty of attempted murder and five other charges he faced in connection with the shooting of 25-year-old Brandon Stucker at Storm's home on West Polk Road in 2008.
Storm, 28, had also been charged with aggravated battery, battery, two counts of criminal confinement and domestic battery. He pleaded innocent by reason of self-defense.
Storm had been offered a plea deal but chose instead to have a jury trial.
"Justice has been served," Storm said Friday after the verdict. "I represent everybody the process has scared into taking plea deals."
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Storm innocent of the charges. Storm's family and friends hugged and some cried after the verdict had been read in Jefferson Circuit Court, which was being held in the Venture Out Business Center.
Storm testified Thursday that around 5:30 a.m. Nov. 24, 2008, a hooded man grabbed him in a choke-hold while he was attempting to restrain his then-fiancee, Tera Smith, who was "spitting" and "swinging" at him in front of their home after returning to get their son and Smith's son from a previous relationship ready for school. Smith and the daughter she had with Storm had been staying with the man, later identified as Stucker, at his parents' house for the previous two days.
During testimony, Stucker described Smith as a friend and Storm as an acquaintance. Smith and Stucker had been getting methadone treatments in Clark County and Stucker had helped Smith and Storm move into their home a few weeks before the shooting, Stucker testified.
Storm said he did not know where Smith had been during the two days before the incident and did not know that Stucker had been in the vehicle, a maroon Ford Explorer. Stucker testified Tuesday that he had been hiding in the cargo area to avoid a confrontation.
Storm said he freed himself from the choke-hold as he tried to pull himself into his vehicle, a flatbed truck. When he turned around, Stucker, whom he did not recognize because of the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing, was pointing a small black gun at him, he said.
Storm said after he retrieved a .357-caliber Magnum from his truck he fired a warning shot as Stucker headed toward the house. After the shot was fired, Stucker changed directions and headed back to the Explorer.
Storm said he was making his way back toward the house when the Explorer came at him and he jumped on the hood to avoid being run over.
Storm said he shot Stucker through the windshield because Stucker was leaning forward and pointing the gun at his face. Stucker was hit in the lower abdomen.
Jefferson County Chief Deputy Prosecutor D.J. Mote tried to convince jurors during his closing argument that Storm was not defending himself that morning and that Stucker never had a gun.
Mote said Storm pulled Smith from the Explorer and began hitting her.
"The only reason (Stucker) got out of the car and put his hands on (Storm) was because of (Storm's) criminal conduct" toward Smith, he said. "(Storm) initiated the violence. He was participating in it. He initiated the crime."
Stucker testified that he did not have any weapons and did not know if any weapons were in the Explorer. Investigators found two handguns and a baseball bat in the Explorer.
With Storm pointing the Magnum at him through the windshield, Stucker said, he would have "emptied a clip" in him if he had been in possession of a firearm.
During his closing argument, Storm's defense attorney Jason Pattison attacked the credibility of Stucker's testimony and Smith's statements to police. Smith did not testify during the trial.
Stucker said that he dragged Storm over to his truck and told him to leave for work, but Pattison said it wasn't physically possible because Storm is taller and weighs about 40 pounds more than Stucker.
"The 190-pound drug addict methadone patient did not drag the 240-pound construction worker over to his truck," Pattison said. "Mr. Stucker lies just because Mr. Stucker lies."
Pattison said that only after Storm was threatened with two deadly weapons - the gun and the vehicle - did he resort to deadly force.
Pattison also said Stucker - who was on probation at the time of the incident - was afraid of going to jail for a probation violation if the authorities found out he had been in possession of a gun.
"He lies because he doesn't want to go to jail any longer than he has to," Pattison said. "He doesn't want to pick up that probation violation. He'd be facing additional criminal charges from this incident. Brandon Stucker had a gun. All of the physical evidence in this case says that he's a liar and Derin Storm is telling the truth."
Storm said after his acquittal that the past two years have taken a financial and an emotional toll on his family. In addition to spending more than $25,000 on his legal defense, Storm said he lost custody of his two children for 13 months.
Storm regained full custody of his children after Child Protective Services hearings. Smith is allowed supervised visits.
Storm said he felt that the prosecutors only cared about how the prosecutor's office would benefit from winning a case instead of thoroughly considering the facts about the incident.
"It was for their record, their careers, their financial gain," he said. "The more convictions they get, the more money they get. Justice should not be treated like a business; it should be handled with reason and respect."
Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis said a great aspect of the American legal system is that a jury gets to decide whether a person is innocent or guilty.
Mote said, "What the jury decides is never wrong."
Pattison did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.