New Murder Trial Granted For Man Whose Attorney Collapsed In Court, Later Died

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a new murder trial for Alfonso Jarmon, a man whose attorney died days after collapsing during closing arguments.

Jarmon has been serving a life sentence for his conviction in the 2016 slaying of his 77-year-old neighbor Charles Hugh Perkins in Florence. Jarmon was convicted in 2017 — one day after his attorney collapsed during her closing arguments at the Lauderdale County Courthouse.

After defense attorney Jean Darby was taken to the hospital from the courtroom, Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Gil Self appointed new lawyers for Jarmon. The judge denied the new lawyers’ requests for a mistrial and to recess the trial for the weekend.

In a 4-1 vote, the appeals court ruled that Circuit Judge Gil Self should have granted the motion for a recess.

“By denying new counsel's motion to continue and quickly pressing ahead with trial after the defendant's trial attorney became incapacitated, the trial court unconstitutionally limited Jarmon's right to counsel, especially in consideration of the voluminous mental-health evidence presented at trial,” the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in an opinion issued Friday.

At trial, Darby presented two lines of defense for Jarmon – that he acted in self-defense and that he was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Because Darby didn’t complete her closing argument, Jarmon’s Sixth Amendment right was violated, the appellate court ruled.

“The right to have counsel present a closing statement to the jury is a fundamental right under the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the effective assistance of counsel,” the appellate court wrote in its decision.

At trial, the prosecution suggested the judge could tell the jury to disregard the prosecution’s closing arguments. The judge agreed and told the jury they could consider the part of closing arguments that Darby completed but they should disregard the prosecution’s closing.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said he’s disappointed in the appellate court’s decision.

“We certainly don’t want to put the victim’s family through a new trial,” Connolly told AL.com.

At trial, multiple eyewitnesses testified to seeing Jarmon shoot Perkins in the head.

Connolly said he hopes the Alabama Attorney General’s Office will appeal the appellate court’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

An AG’s office spokesman said the case is being reviewed.

Darby died at a local hospital two days after she collapsed in court.