Man Convicted In Huntsville’s 1996 Cell Phone Murders Seeks New Trial

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – One of two men sentenced to death for one of Huntsville’s most notorious murders is seeking a new trial.

Nicholas Acklin appeared in a Madison County courtroom Thursday under heavy security for a status hearing.  Acklin, one of three men convicted in a 1996 murder case, claims his counsel was ineffective at trial.

He has new attorneys representing him for his appeal.

The so-called ‘cell phone murders’ happened on September 25, 1996 inside a home on U.S. Highway 72 near the Huntsville city limits.   A jury determined Acklin and two others, Joey Wilson and Corey Johnson held seven people at gunpoint for nearly two hours, assaulting, torturing and humiliating them.  Acklin and Wilson opened fire, emptying 19 rounds, all over a stolen cell phone.

Four people died, Charles Larnar Hemphill, Bryan Carter, Michael Beaudette and Johnny Couch.  Two others were wounded, Ashley Rutherford and Michelle Hayden Mills.

Acklin and Wilson are both on death row at Holman Prison. The third person convicted in the case, Corey Johnson, was released in 2011 after serving his 15-year sentence.

In court Thursday, Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer heard arguments from Acklin’s attorneys and the Alabama Attorney General’s office, which is fighting the appeal.

Along with Acklin, family and friends of the victims were also in court.  They sat quietly and focused on the proceedings in order to hear the judge and attorneys.

The Alabama Supreme Court recently assigned the case to Judge Comer.  At the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, Judge Comer scheduled all parties to return August 29 at 1:30 p.m. for further review.

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