Marshall County prosecutors plan to ask for a life sentence for Dale Hopson, of Joppa, who was convicted last week of murdering his wife.
The jury deliberated less than an hour Friday before finding Hopson guilty of murder for shooting his wife, Joyce, in the head in their Joppa residence in 2016.
The defense maintained that the shooting was an accident but prosecutors said Hopson stood over his wife and intentionally shot her in the head with a .357 magnum revolver.
During the trial last week, prosecutors called Arab police investigators, Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences professionals, 911 dispatchers and Hopson’s mother to testify against him.
Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson, who lives in Arab, reminded the jury in his closing statement that Hopson gave police at least six different versions of what happened that night in April 2016.
1 – He was cleaning his gun and it went off.
2 – He was “messing” with his gun and it went off.
3 – He was checking his gun to see if anything was in it and it went off.
4 – He was just checking his gun and he doesn’t know what happened.
5 – He was going to fire a shot to run some dogs off and it went off, striking Joyce.
6 – He lost his balance and fell into Joyce and the gun went off.
“He just kept throwing stuff at (investigators) hoping they would believe something,” Johnson said.
Johnson reminded the jury that one Arab police officer at the scene of the murder, while looking at Joyce’s body can be heard on a police body camera saying, “yep, execution style.”
Defense attorney Enza Giles told the jury in his closing statement that only Dale and Joyce know what really happened, and, “unfortunately, she’s not here to tell us.”
He said that prosecutors had not met their burden of proof. He reminded the jury that the defense doesn’t have to prove anything, that prosecutors have to prove without a reasonable doubt that Hopson intentionally killed his wife.
“They have not done that,” Giles said.
In charging the jury, Marshall County Presiding Circuit Judge Chris Abel gave them the option of manslaughter or murder.
Manslaughter would have carried a penalty of 20 years in prison.
Murder carries 20 years to life or 99 years.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Ed Kellett said prosecutors plan to ask for a life sentence at Hopson’s May 4 sentencing hearing.
After the trial, Johnson said he was pleased with the jury’s verdict.
Giles said Hopson is considering appealing his conviction.
“It’s not the outcome that we wanted but I do believe in the jury process. The jury did its job and we have to accept its verdict,” he said. “Obviously he’s disappointed but he has his head up, walking with his head up. We’re just moving forward. It’s just one step at a time.”