Ex-resident’s murder trial delayed in Brookhaven|[03/04/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

From staff reports

The trial of a former Vicksburg resident accused of killing a Brookhaven man in October 2006 has been continued until next week after being scheduled to start today.

Robert Mark Culbertson, 32, is one of two men indicted in the beating death of Jewel Duane Douglas, 36. A spokesman in the office of Lincoln County Circuit Court, Terry Watkins, said the court appearance was pushed back for another case.

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On Friday, after Culbertson testified against him, the other defendant, Michael Leggett, 33, was sentenced to life behind bars after a jury found him guilty of murder. The panel of four women and eight men returned the verdict after barely an hour and a half of deliberation following a four-day trial.

Leggett was sentenced as a habitual criminal to life in prison with no chance of parole. He was also fined $10,000 for medical and final expenses for the victim’s family, as well as $2,000 in court fees.

On the night of Oct. 11, 2006, authorities arrived at Douglas’ home and found him unresponsive and saw a yellow vehicle fleeing the scene. A chase led to Culbertson’s home on Highway 583 where deputies arrested Culbertson and Leggett.

In his testimony, Culbertson said Leggett had been in a “hyperactive rage” about a wallet he said Douglas had stolen from him.

The night Douglas was killed, Culbertson said, Douglas came running from the trailer with Leggett behind him. Culbertson testified he threw a tire tool that hit Douglas’ head.

Culbertson testified that Leggett then got on top of Douglas and beat him in the head with the tire iron.

Defense attorneys Joe Fernald and Jason Tate worked on cross-examination to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and tried to point the finger at Culbertson as the one who struck the death blow, based on his testimony about throwing the tool.

Leggett, in his own defense, testified, that contrary to what Culbertson had said, he and Douglas had come to an agreement before Douglas left the trailer to get the wallet. He said at that point Culbertson threw the tire tool.

In a closing statement before the jury Friday, Assistant District Attorney Brendan Adams pointed out that the tire tool, which belonged to Culbertson’s girlfriend, was taken to Douglas’ property for the purpose of using it to commit violence.