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Jury deliberations begin in Gordon trial

Friday, July 15, 2011

Denise Clifton and son Jenkins outside the Sharp County courthouse during the Richard Gordon murder trial July 14.
After calling 16 witnesses over six and a half hours on Wednesday, July 13, the prosecution rested its case, finishing its second attempt to convince a jury that Richard Gordon of Viola is guilty of murder in the first degree.

Gordon is being retried in Stone County, after a Fulton County jury deadlocked at the end of a September 2010 trial. Gordon is accused of the September 2009 shooting death of Joseph Clifton, 32. Clifton was shot three times as he sat in his truck, in front of a gate leading to his home. Gordon and Clifton had been involved in a dispute over the gate, as Gordon and other neighbors claimed Clifton and his wife, Denise, had illegally blocked a public road.

As in the first trial, 16th District Prosecuting Attorney Don McFadden, assisted by Fulton County Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee, called first responders who were called when Clifton's body was discovered, state police agents who handled the murder investigation and Clifton friends and relatives who testified about the Clifton's fear of Gordon. But Denise Clifton remained the key witness.

"Honey, don't worry. Stop and get you a drink. We are fine and we'll be here," Denise tearfully told prosecutors, describing how her husband urged her not to rush as she spoke to him for the last time, before she returned home, after spending the day at a Batesville physician's office as she trained to become a nurse practitioner.

Clifton described the uneasy feeling of driving the road to her home and finding her husband's truck running at the disputed gate. Clifton stayed back expecting her husband to pull up and, when he did not, walking up to the truck.

"I knew something was bad wrong," Clifton testified. "I knew he had Jenkins (their two year old son) with him. When I got to the drivers side door, the first thing I saw was a gunshot in his side and he was slumped down and I started hollering."

Clifton described a series of run-ins with Gordon, which led up the the shooting incident.

Clifton and other witnesses testified that a rifle Joseph always carried with him was in its regular spot on the truck floor between the console and seat, testimony to refute Gordon's claim that he shot in self defense after Joseph pulled the rifle on him.

In presenting their case a second time, Denise was asked to mark an aerial map where her family and other neighbors lived, and state police showed a video of the drive from Gordon's home to the Clifton's property, perhaps to help jurors better understand how the neighborhood was laid out.

Prosecutors also played a police interview with Gordon, the day after the shooting, in which Gordon admitted shooting Clifton but made his self defense claim.

The prosecution rested its case in the first trial with a dry interview with a state crime lab technician.

On Wednesday, the prosecution tried to end with more of a bang by calling two jail inmates who testified Gordon had admitted shooting Clifton over a property dispute and Jeremy Mask, a friend of Gordon's, who admitted he had heard Gordon make threatening comments about the Clifton's, especially after he had been drinking.

Defense attorney Joe Froelich has scheduled nine potential witnesses. He will begin presenting the defense case on Thursday morning, July 14.

Check back for more updates daily.

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