Shooting of Mother Called Accidental
Opening arguments were heard Tuesday morning in the trial of an Aberdeen man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of his mother.
Officers responding to a 911 call of shots fired found Douglas Mattiford Doughten holding his 72-year-old mother, Barbara Shortt Doughten, trying to resuscitate her. The pair shared a residence at 124 Apologue Lane, in Aberdeen.
"He claimed he'd heard a noise, and picked up a 9-mm. handgun he kept loaded and holstered in his bedroom," Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland told the jury. "He fired, and the bullet went through the wall of his bedroom into the living room."
There it struck and apparently ricocheted from a television set.
"It went through the living room wall into his mother's bedroom and through her bedroom wall into her bathroom where it hit her," Strickland said. "She screamed and ran into the bedroom. He caught her as she fell down."
According to a police report, Aberdeen police responded to the 911 at 9:29 p.m. When they arrived at the residence, they discovered Barbara Doughten with a bullet wound under one of her arms. She died later that evening at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
"Douglas Doughten did not intend to kill his mother," Strickland said. "He is not charged with murder. The defendant killed by an intentional, unlawful act. He intended to shoot; that act resulted in death. He did not act in self-defense, in defense of his mother, in defense of his house. Hearing a noise is not enough."
At the time, Doughten told police that he thought he heard someone breaking into the house, and he fired his 9-mm pistol. Following an investigation, in addition to the voluntary manslaughter charge, police charged him with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and discharging a firearm inside the city limits. Doughten was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
Doughten's brother and sister and their spouses sat behind him at the defense table in the courtroom as trial on the manslaughter charge began on Monday. Doughten's lawyer, James R. Van Camp, of Pinehurst, mentioned a number of defenses when questioning potential jurors.
"There are defenses of accident, defenses of home," Van Camp said, referring to what he called "facts" in the case before quickly saying the judge would explain the law and jurors would determine the facts.
Van Camp repeatedly asked jurors to agree they would have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that "the death wasn't an accident, -wasn't defense of the home, wasn't defense of another." He reminded them that the state's evidence had to prove Doughten's killing his own mother was not any of these things.
In his opening statement, Van Camp described the events of that August evening as tragic but accidental. "This is not an argument, but an idea of how you can see the evidence," he said. "Douglas loved his mother. What happened that night was only part of what took place.
"On April 24, 20009, while he was working at Forest Creek, she saw a man coming in at her back door and called 911. The man ran away. Two days later, they came home from church and the house had been ransacked. Guns and ammunition he had at the time were stolen."
His client tried to do something to be sure he and his mother would be safe in the future, according to Van Camp.
"Douglas took a gun safety course and bought a pistol," he said. "He got a security system put in. Three and a half months later, at same time of night, he heard a noise from the same area, and shot toward the door."
Van Camp told jurors the odds of that bullet following the path it took were "a billion to one."
"Foreseeable?" he said. "No. Could you make a bullet do that? Once in a billion times? A tragedy? Yes. A crime? We leave it in your hands."
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb was unexpectedly holding court in Carthage. Webb, who lives in Moore County, told jurors he would normally have been presiding in High Point. The state constitution requires rotation of judges, but a High Point resident judge asked to be allowed to remain home this week, so Webb found himself once more on the bench in Carthage.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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