Man found guilty of first-degree murder for shooting West Goshen neighbor

Jim Melwert
June 14, 2019 - 8:46 am
Clayton Carter

Chester County District Attorney's Office

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Chester County jury did not buy a West Goshen Township man’s claims that he shot and killed his next-door neighbor out of self-defense. The jury took about 10-hours to reach their verdict.

Clayton Carter told police he shot his next-door neighbor, Brooks Jennings, because he saw Jennings pull a knife. 

The two were arguing as part on an ongoing feud, when two gunshots shattered the silence of the West Chester subdivision.

Related:

But investigators checked that knife and didn’t find the victim’s DNA on it. Instead they found Carter’s, even though he told them he never touched it.

Prosecutors argued the shooting was an execution. They told the jury Carter planned a series of events so he could murder Jennings — for example, about one year before, buying a small handgun he could easily conceal, then after he shot him, planting a knife on Jennings to try to claim self-defense.

"In convicting the defendant of tampering with evidence and placing the knife at the scene, proved they believed they believed that was the defendant's knife and not Brooks' knife and it was the defendant who threw down the knife at the scene to frame Brooks," prosecutor Thomas Ost-Prisco said. 

Ost-Prisco also pointed to the audio recording of the two gunshots from a neighbor's security system.

"Clearly demonstrated there was 12 seconds between the first shot and the second shotm," he said.

Carter’s attorney Joseph Green argued it was justified self-defense. He also told the jury, worst case for his client, it was voluntary manslaughter because Jennings had been provoking Carter since he moved into the neighborhood to help his wife take care of her father.

One example of that provocation: "Trump for President" signs 18 months after the election in the victim’s back yard pointing into Carter’s back yard. 

On the night of the shooting, Jennings was hanging bright lights in his driveway pointing them at Carter.

But prosecutors say Carter took advantage of the situation when he saw Jennings outside and drunk.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.