Defense argues victim provoked defendant, who shot him in 'self-defense'

Jim Melwert
June 13, 2019 - 2:25 pm
Clayton Carter stands trial for the fatal shooting of his neighbor George Jennings

Courtesy of the Chester County Police Department

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The fate of a Chester County man who shot and killed his neighbor in 2017 is now in the hands of a jury. The shooter claims it was self-defense, but prosecutors call it an execution. 

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Prosecutors say Clayton Carter hid a gun in his sweatshirt pocket with the intent of starting an argument with his next-door neighbor, Brooks Jennings, so he could shoot and kill him, arguing this is first-degree murder.

But defense attorney Joseph Green said it was a justified shooting in self-defense, or, at worst, voluntary manslaughter.

Green said on the night of the shooting, Jennings was very drunk — two-and-a-half times the legal limit — and was provoking Carter into a confrontation, which, Green argued, he’d been doing since Carter first moved in. 

Green showed the jury photos of a backyard shed, where Jennings hung several Trump signs facing into Carter’s yard — a year-and-a-half after the election. Green continued, saying Jennings would park his truck on the street in front of Carter’s house so Carter had nowhere to park his car.

And on the night of the shooting, Jennings was hanging bright lights from a basketball net in his front yard, pointing them into Carter’s property. Video also shows Jennings calling Carter names while Carter was in his backyard playing horseshoes with his daughter.

But prosecutors point to a statement the defendant’s daughter gave police, where she said she was scared for Jennnings in a previous run-in with her dad because, in her words, her dad has a "short fuse" and can be "paranoid."

As for self-defense, Carter said he shot Jennings when Jennings pulled a knife. But prosecutors point to DNA tests that show Carter’s DNA on that knife, even though he said he never touched it. Prosecutors believe evidence suggests Carter planted the knife.