A disabled bootlegger who claimed he fatally shot a Columbus man in self-defense was sentenced to three years in prison Monday, despite a plea by his attorney that he be allowed to go home.
The sentence amounted to a fraction of the 25-year term prosecutors said Edgar Clyde Taylor deserved for taking the life of 48-year-old Elijah Huff in August 2011. Authorities had charged Taylor with murder in Huff's death, but a jury in July acquitted him on those counts, finding him guilty of aggravated assault.
"I think if we do anything less than 25 years to serve, we're sending the worst kind of message to our community: That all we have to do is have a disability ... and all we have to do then at that point is to shoot somebody because we'll have a license to kill," said an indignant Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus. "This defendant planned to do what he did, and he did what he wanted to do and he gloated about it."
Defense attorney Nancy Miller countered that her wheelchair-bound client had been backed into a corner when confronted by Huff. "Just because somebody is killed doesn't necessarily mean that a crime has been committed," Miller said.
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The shooting happened Aug. 12, 2011, at Taylor's home in East Wynnton. Huff had gone to the residence with his girlfriend that night to collect a $400 debt Taylor had owed for two months. The girlfriend, Elane Rozier, left amid an argument over the money and said she heard gunfire "before I could even cross the curb."
She turned around to find a mortally wounded Huff stumbling out of the residence. Shot once in the chest, he collapsed and later died at the hospital.
Prosecutors contended Taylor held a grudge against Huff for reporting his bootlegging business and purchased a revolver months ahead in premeditation. The state had based its case largely upon a series of incriminating statements Taylor made in police custody.
The defendant showed no remorse for killing Huff and told investigators he considered "getting up and shooting him two more times" after the initial blast, said Detective John Bailey of the Columbus Police Department.
The defense, however, pointed to Taylor's vulnerability and Huff's documented history of violence, including a 2007 shooting incident for which he was convicted. Angelia Rogers of Columbus, who considered Taylor her father growing up, testified she had never known Taylor to be violent. She said Taylor lost his leg years ago after he was hit by a train in Richland, Ga.
"He's a good man," she said in an interview. "He's never even been in trouble in his whole life."
After the July verdict, Lambertus had said he would always respect the decision of a jury. On Monday, he referred to the acquittal on murder charges as "a curious verdict," saying jurors apparently had not been convinced that Taylor acted in self-defense as they still found him guilty of a felony. He suggested the verdict, reached after some eight hours of deliberation, may have been made in compromise or was perhaps the result of confusion or leniency.
Huff's sister, Dolores Johnson, called the verdict "an injustice."
"My brother, yes he had a lot of mouth, but he wouldn't hurt nobody," she said. "I don't believe he deserved to die."
Judge Gil McBride, after weighing the pre-sentence investigation and trial testimony, sentenced Taylor to three years in prison, followed by seven years probation. Jailed since the shooting, Taylor, 66, already has served more than a year and four months of his sentence.