A Stand your Ground Hearing was held in the murder case of Aaron Morris Nix today in front of Judge John H. Graham. Nix was shot on April 7, 2023, at a local Mexican restaurant by the Defendant, Jerry “J.J.” Carl Hicks, Jr.The testimony began with Dr. Valerie Green, State Medical Examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Green testified that the victim had a gunshot wound which entered his upper chest and exited in his back on the right side. Green testified that the victim also had blunt force injuries to his left face, ear, eye and both hands, which were consistent with a fall onto pavement. The gunshot wound, according to Green, was consistent with a shot from a downward position, traveling left to right and front to back. At the time of his death, Nix was approximately 178 lbs. The cause of death was determined to be the gunshot wound.
Scottsboro Police Department Detective Lieutenant Scott Hamilton was the investigator on call the night of the shooting. Hamilton identified photos of the vehicle being driven by Hicks, as well as the vehicle Nix was riding in as a passenger prior to the incident – one parking space between the vehicles was left vacant, as well as photos of a pocket knife lying beside the victim’s body, and a meal receipt for the meal Hicks had with his family that evening, with a time stamp of 8:45 p.m. When asked by Graham, Hamilton confirmed the pocket knife discovered beside the victim was closed.
Scottsboro Police Sergeant Andrew Miller testified that when the call came in to 911 from the restaurant, he along with three other officers answered the call. Miller testified that he was the third car in a line of four total patrol cars to arrive on scene. Miller stated that he drove to the side of the restaurant where he viewed the victim lying on the ground, with his head lying on his sister’s knee. There was a closed pocket knife on the victim’s left side.
Scottsboro Police Officer Bailey Johnson stated that she was the first officer on the scene. Johnson testified that the Defendant’s gun was on top of his vehicle. Johnson stated that the Defendant was ordered and complied with her commands to get on his knees, place his hands in the air and turn around. He was then placed into handcuffs. Johnson stated that the Defendant began telling her that Nix had yelled at him for letting his child go to the bathroom alone. She testified that she then advised the Defendant of his Miranda Rights and had to explain to him on multiple occasions to stop talking. The Defendant never told Johnson that the victim had a weapon; she did not see any injuries on the Defendant and that the Defendant never stated he was threatened. The Defendant asked for a lawyer, after telling her that the victim had hit him.
The Defense then called Defendant Hicks to the stand. Graham thoroughly covered the Defendant’s right to remain silent, waiver of rights and the fact that his testimony could be used against him in trial, if the case goes to trial.
Hicks testified that he grew up in Flat Rock. He graduated from Pisgah High School in 2016 and then began the welding program at Northeast Alabama Community College. Hicks stated that he then joined the United States Army. He was stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia, where he was a heavy equipment operator. Hicks was honorably discharged four years later, when he completed his term. Hicks testified that he then went into the fiber optic industry and was employed by GTS of Georgia, where he worked in Virginia until December 2022. Hicks then began Hicks Contracting, LLC, a fiber optic recruiting service that would provide fiber optic workers for contracts in Washington, Mississippi and Florida. Hicks testified that he and his wife Courtney Sampley live in Scottsboro with their two children, who were six years old and two years old at the time of the shooting. Hicks stated that he had just accepted a job offer with TAC Communications as a recruiter and was supposed to leave for the job the Monday following the shooting. Hicks went on to testify about the day of the shooting.
Hicks stated on that day, he had helped his sister and brother-in-law move a pool table, went home, finished packing and then he, his wife and his son traveled to the restaurant for dinner. Not long after they arrived, the Defendant stated that his son needed to go to the restroom, so he took him. Following dinner and dessert, the child asked to go back to the restroom and was allowed to go alone, since no one was around. The Defendant testified that the victim came out of the restroom saying, “Who let’s their f****** kids go to the bathroom by their self.” The Defendant stated that he responded to the victim, “Hey man what’s going on?” The victim did not respond and continued walking.
After the Defendant’s child came out of the restroom the family went to the counter to pay for their meal. There the Defendant viewed the victim standing talking loudly into the kitchen area of the restaurant. Hicks stated that his wife and child exited the building and went to their car to wait for him. Hicks stated that the victim walked out and to the left and Hicks walked out and to the right, although his car was to the left. Hicks stated that the victim walked towards his car, and he asked him, “Hey man, why are you coming to my car?” Hicks testified that the victim responded to him saying, “I’ll do whatever the **** I want.” The victim, according to Hicks, then mentioned that he had let his kid go to the restroom alone and then again stated that he had four children and would not let his kids go to the restroom alone. Hicks testified that he responded, “I let my f****** kid go to the bathroom by himself.” At that time, according to Hicks, the victim chest bumped him three to four times. Hicks stated that he told the victim to go to his vehicle and leave him alone. Hicks testified that he was then hit three times by the victim and stumbled to the trunk of the car. He stated that he then told the victim that he had a gun and to go on and leave him alone. Hicks testified that he couldn’t get into his car because he would have had to turn his back on the victim. Hicks testified that the victim’s sister, who was in the car next to them, kept telling the victim to quit and leave him alone and that he (Hicks) had a gun. Hicks stated he heard the victim state, “I’ll end him quicker,” and viewed the victim reaching into his waistband at which time Hicks states he pulled his gun, aimed full mass and fired. Hicks testified that the victim then turned and ran.
Hicks stated he put his weapon on safety, placed it back into his holster and went inside the restaurant. The Defense played the 911 call that was made from the restaurant. The call began with an employee of the restaurant stating that he thought someone outside got shot. Hicks then got on the phone and stated, “He started punching me and I shot him. When we got to the parking lot, I asked him why he was cussing at my kid.” Hicks went on to testify that he thought the victim was going to kill him and that he shot so he’d stop and go on.
A recording of a 911 call made by Hicks was also played. The Defendant can be heard on the call stating that he shot somebody at the Mexican restaurant. “Please get here quick, he’s dying. He started hitting me, beating me in front of my kid,” Hicks can be heard telling the operator.
On cross examination, Jackson County District Attorney Jason Pierce asked Hicks where he had gotten the gun. Hicks stated that after leaving the military, although he’d never received any sort of pistol training, and didn’t grow up with guns in his home, his dad had given him the gun. Hicks stated that he had only shot the gun in his yard and only shot three rounds from the gun, upon receiving it from his father. Pierce questioned Hicks about where his confidence to carry came from. Hicks responded, “It’s my right as a United States citizen to open carry.” Hicks further stated he learned gun safety from a rifle and that he open carries with the safety on and one chambered. Hicks stated that he doesn’t know how many rounds the magazine will hold and that it was loaded one week prior, after losing the magazine.
Hicks testified on cross examination that he aimed center mass to “Get him to go on and stop.” Hicks also stated that the victim was six to seven feet away at the time of the shooting. He testified that he pulled the gun with the intent to pull the trigger, that he never saw the knife, that he carries to protect himself and his family, that he became afraid when the victim approached his vehicle, and that the 911 call was inaccurate when he stated he didn’t mean to shoot him. Hicks also agreed that in the 911 call he states that he had asked the victim why he was cussing about his kid. Hicks explained to Pierce that when the victim reached for his waistband he did so with both hands. Hicks stated when they were exiting the building, he wasn’t paying attention to Nix at all. Hicks described those punches he received from Nix as stunning.
On redirect, Defense Attorney Parker Edmiston questioned Hicks regarding firearms. Hicks testified that his entire family carries. He also testified at the time, he did not feel capable of defending himself hand to hand.
On recross, Hicks testified that he did learn hand to hand combat in the military. He also testified that he didn’t shoot again because the victim ran away. The victim’s sister, Valerie Snodgrass was called to the stand following a lunch recess. Snodgrass testified that she, her boyfriend and her brother went to the restaurant that evening between 9:17 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to pick up her daughter, who was employed at the restaurant. Snodgrass’ testimony began with the statement she had given to Miller. The statement says that her brother told her he needed to use the bathroom and she told him to go inside. She states that the Defendant came out and the victim came out 10 seconds later. She says she viewed Hicks and Nix talking closely, when it became obvious that the conversation wasn’t friendly, Snodgrass’ statement says that she exited her car to get her brother. Her statement says that the Defendant stated to the victim, “N***** back the **** up or I’ll f****** kill you.” She says at that point, the victim punched Hicks. Snodgrass stated that she told Nix that Hicks had a gun. Hicks then shot Nix from approximately two to three feet away and the victim took off running. Snodgrass’ statement says that the Defendant shot two more times.
Snodgrass testified that the Defendant yelled at her, “Yeah, I f****** shot him.” She also testified that the Defendant warned the victim several times to “shut up and quit and to back up or he would kill him.”
Snodgrass stated that she ran into the restaurant to get a light because the parking lot was dark. She says she then ran out the back door where she found Nix facedown, gargling. Snodgrass testified that she rolled Nix over onto his back and laid his head on her legs. On the stand, Snodgrass testified that she saw the Defendants weapon in his waistband, above his holster, not in the holster. She testified that the Defendant came out and the victim came out approximately three minutes later. Snodgrass also testified that she heard the Defendant say to her brother, “Talk that **** now mother ******.”
Snodgrass testified that once she exited her car, she got the victim’s attention and he pivoted, to turn and come to her car, when the Defendant yelled at the victim again, “That’s what I thought you f****** n*****,” and that’s when the defendant was hit by the victim.
On cross examination by Edmiston, Snodgrass testified that she was very close to her brother. She testified that she had only seen her brother drink two Mike’s Hard Lemonades that day. She did not believe Nix was intoxicated. Edmiston questioned the discrepancies about the time between the Defendant exiting the restaurant and the victim exiting the restaurant in her statement and in her testimony.
Miller was called back to the stand by Edmiston to rebut the testimony of Snodgrass. Miller stated that when taking Snodgrass’ statement, she stated the Defendant came out of the restaurant and the victim came out about ten seconds later. Miller also stated that Snodgrass did report that the Defendant told the victim multiple times to quit touching him and to back up or he’d kill him.
Judge Graham will take the Stand Your Ground Motion under advisement.
The Clarion will update this story when a ruling on the Motion has been made.