BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WALA) -Christopher Smith will be tried as an adult. That was the ruling from Judge Jody Bishop in Baldwin County Thursday, March 27, 2014. Smith is accused of shooting 5 year old Teela Murphy and her brother with a hunting rifle at their Fairhope home almost two years ago. Smith has contended the shooting was an accident while prosecutors say he intentionally pulled the trigger.
Judge Jody Bishop’s courtroom erupted in applause Thursday morning as Christopher Smith’s youthful offender hearing came to a close. Bishop quickly silenced the crowd that was there in support of 5-year-old Teela Murphy, who was shot and killed in her yard in April 2012. Prosecutors said Smith purposefully shot Teela and her brother at their Fairhope home with a hunting rifle while he watched the children for their mother.
“We pointed out today in open court that he was looking at the kids through the scope, had his finger on the trigger and squeezed the trigger,” said Baldwin County Assistant DA, Rushing Payne.
Judge Bishop ruled that Smith will stand trial as an adult for the alleged offenses. The Murphy family filled the courtroom wearing pink shirts with Teela’s picture on them and the words “Justice for Teela.” Two years have passed since the shooting and they’re glad to see the case moving forward.
“It’s been tough…a lot of ups and downs, but you have to keep fighting and just pray and fight that the right thing will be down and we feel like today is a step in that direction,” said Teela’s grandmother, Luci Murphy.
Smith’s attorney, Jim Byrd contends that the rifle malfunctioned. Smith has admitted aiming the rifle at Teela and her brother at one point with no intention to shoot. Whatever the intent, prosecutors said a single bullet discharged, striking them both. Byrd said he was disappointed with today’s ruling.
“He has no prior criminal history. He’s attending school. He’s remorseful. He’s attending guilt and grief…excuse me, grief counseling. He is a young man that is deserving of youthful offender consideration,” Byrd said.
The consequences of the ruling are extreme. For example, had Smith been granted youthful offender status, if found guilty his maximum sentence would have been three years. As it stands now, if he’s found guilty he could face up to life in prison.
A trial date has not been set yet. Smith remains out on bond at this time.