Acklin Hearing: Defense Witness Signals Numerous “Red Flags”

Nicholas Acklin (August 2013)

Nicholas Acklin (August 2013)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A mitigation expert says she would have dug deeper and asked many more questions if she had been part of Nicholas Acklin’s 1998 capital murder trial.

Acklin is attempting to get a new trial, citing ineffective assistance by original counsel. A hearing is underway this week in Madison County Circuit Court to determine whether the request will be granted.

The hearing comes 15 years after Acklin was sentenced to die for his role in the 1996 “Cell Phone Murders” case. Four people were shot to death at a home on University Drive. Two others were injured. Acklin was one of the shooters. The other was Joey Wilson, whom one of the victims had accused of stealing a cell phone.

Acklin is being represented by attorneys with the Southern Center for Human Rights out of Atlanta. They hope to show counsel trial failed on several fronts, most particularly by not introducing evidence Acklin, his siblings and mother had been abused by his father.

On the third day of the hearing, the defense began by calling Lori James-Towne to the stand. James-Towne leads the social work division of the Maryland Public Defender’s Office and was established as an expert in the field of mitigation investigation – identifying factors that may lessen a defendant’s culpability. She was asked to review several records involving Nicholas Acklin; his mother, Velma Evans; his brother, Fred Acklin; and another brother, Steven Acklin.

James-Towne noted what she called numerous “red flags.” She pointed to a Department of Human Resources report which detailed how the father, Theodis “Ted” Acklin, pulled a gun on Steven Acklin. The report also included mentions of the children in the home being shoved, grabbed by the neck and choked.  She said she would have been especially concerned because, “the allegations were not denied by the dad, although there were discrepancies to the severity.”

Despite the allegations, the children remained in their father’s custody. He and Velma Evans divorced in 1982. James-Towne said she would not have dropped the issue of childhood abuse had she become aware of it just prior to trial – even if the defendant ordered her to – as was the case with Nicholas Acklin.  Acklin’s mother disclosed the family’s troubled home life to his attorney, Behrouz Rahmati, immediately before trial. Rahmati testified he wanted to introduce the evidence, but Nicholas Acklin refused and even signed a waiver indicating it was against legal advice.

James-Towne also said she would have requested records on everyone in the family, to establish Acklin’s social history – including medical records showing chronic alcohol and drug abuse that began when he was a teen. Rahmati testified he did request certain records but only those dealing directly with Nicholas Acklin. He did not seek information about Acklin’s siblings or parents, which the defense believes would have shown the pattern of abuse.

Wednesday’s testimony also included statements from Steven Acklin. He corroborated previous evidence regarding abuse in the home, saying Ted Acklin often had a gun out when he disciplined his sons.  Steven Acklin said their father would come in to their room with a belt and the gun and, “tell us he would kill all of us and kill himself.”

Only one witness is expected to testify for the defense Thursday. State Assistant Attorney General Jon Hayden has said he does not intend to call any witnesses. Once the hearing concludes, it could be a few months or more before Judge Chris Comer issues his ruling.

27 comments

  • Sue

    Leave him where he is so the world is safe!! The bad childhood defense is usually brought whenever it is clear someone is guilty. Unfortunately it happens all the time but the children do not go out and kill people.

    • jay acklin

      and no the world is not safe … you sayin that like he is the only one that has done some bad ! it would be real funny if he gets out and become PRESIDENT hahaha … IM ENJOYING YOUR COMMENTS THO !!!

  • Glenn

    What does a bad childhood have to do with killing four people over a cell phone lot of people had rough childhoods and turned out to be just fine he is just an ignorant person and needs to die I hope you rot in hell

    • jay acklin

      and your speaking bad things upon someone lol cute…. umm who are you a GOD or something ???? you have no AUTHORITY about who goes too heaven or hell …. and when your judgment day comes what if GOD makes you rot in hell IS YOUR PLATE CLEAN WHY YOUR JUDGING … because always khow NO SIN IS BIGGER THAN THE OTHER A SIN IS A SIN so make sure your PERFECT BEFOR YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT SOMEBODY ROTTEN IN HELL !!!

  • Redemption

    Luke 23: 17-23 . Barabas was released and Jesus was crucified. Barabas was guilty of murder. The paradox here is that Jesus took the penalty of sin that we all could be set free. To say you hope Nick rots in hell is to say that there is no redemption or redeemer. Fact is, even Glenn and Sue we’re like Barabas….guilty of sin but Jesus took the penalty to set us all free…..we have to embrace the power of forgiveness and redemption……

    • Sue

      So he is supposed to go free now? Imagine what it would be like if we allowed all murderers to just walk away. Our sins will be dealt with by GOD “after” we leave this world. Until then there has to be laws for whatever crime is done. I would not go out and kill someone and expect to walk away. I treat others as I would like to be treated. I do not see why anyone would do this but since he did-he deserves what he received!

      • jay acklin

        ummm sue it is lol … who are you too judge he was young at once and yea he made a mistake you never khow what is intention were …. just because he hadda gun dosent mean he was going too kill some one …. how about you get into his family shoes what if this was your son YOU WOULD WANT TOO GET HIM OUT AND WOULD TRYY TOO DO ANYTHING TOO GET HIM OUT….. so dont just say he gettin what he deserve some people change over years and he has had many years too do so … so how about you just worry about you and not his trial if your not puttin any money in on this just keep your mouth shut THANK YOU GOD BLESS !!!

  • jay acklin

    ummm sue it is lol … who are you too judge he was young at once and yea he made a mistake you never khow what is intention were …. just because he hadda gun dosent mean he was going too kill some one …. how about you get into his family shoes what if this was your son YOU WOULD WANT TOO GET HIM OUT AND WOULD TRYY TOO DO ANYTHING TOO GET HIM OUT….. so dont just say he gettin what he deserve some people change over years and he has had many years too do so … so how about you just worry about you and not his trial if your not puttin any money in on this just keep your mouth shut THANK YOU GOD BLESS !!!

    • Sue

      Jay- To start with this is a PUBLIC forum. I can say what I want! Agai. I say no matter what age anyone is I am sure they know MURDERING someone is wrong! Self defense is the only way most people would do that! Over a cell phone is outrageous. FOUR people are DEAD and two two were injured. Did you go to the funeral of the deceased or the hospital of the injured? Did you watch the families of the innocent victims mourn. He did not make “a mistake”. He made a devastating terrible mess of the lives of FOUR victims. Not “one” person or family suffered. They ALL did. How would you feel if he had been killed as an innocent victim by one of them? Go walk in their shoes!! Young and changed? Doubt that! He did not even have a. reasonable reason to go there. So- was he just wanting to kill someone or just plain EVIL? I think both! if you do not like comments DON’T READ THEM! The deceased need justice. If he were in my family I would not trust him to not kill again!!!

      • jay acklin

        LOL … OKAIHYY once again ive been in there shoes befor plenty of my family members have died over something stupid but everybody makes mistakes even if they were on purpose … AND I STILL DONT WISH ANYTHING BAD UPON THEM … because thats not my job THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON maybe somebody from there families got saved at the funeral or anything you never khow … and yeah you right anybody can comment but some comments should be left too your self … like I said if he was your child you wouldnt be sayin what your saying now … NOW WOULD YOU ??? NALL YOU WOULDNT … so like I said GOD BLESS YOU AND I PRAY THAT YOUR PLATE IS CLEAN WHY YOU SPEAKING DOWN ON SOMEBODY ELSE JUST BECAUSE YOU AINT MAKE THAT SIN …. and I repeat a sin is a sin aint no sin bigger than the other im pretty sure you have sinned today … and is somebody tellin you too go too jail and die there no ?? GOD FOR GIVES AND FORGETS ALOT OF PEOPLE GETS A SECOND CHANCE EVERY DAY SO WHY CANT HE ?? ZIMMERMAN DID AND HE KILLED A INNOCENT CHILD WHAT YOU GOTTA SAY ABOUT HIM YOUR NOT TELLING HIM TOO ROT IN HELL !!! … BE BLESSED GETSAVED AND STOP JUDGING PEOPLE !!!

      • jay acklin

        Oan: if the deceased were as inocent as you say they were then trust me they got their justice ….. BECAUSE HEAVEN IS THE BEST PLACE TOO BE !!!

    • Sue

      I agree that Heaven is the best place to be! However just like everyone they wanted and should been able to live a full life. It should not have been cut short.

      • jay acklin

        Thats also GODS will … if theif deceased it wasent meant for them too live a full life not saying nick was right but once again things happen for a reason …

  • Sue

    I never said for him to rot in hell that is God’s decision after death. If I had a child that did that I would say something went very wrong. I would not want to see my child die- no. However I would not want him to kill anyone else. I would not trust the fact they he would not since I could not understand why he ever killed anyone. All family members should have been taken out of their miserable situation when they were kids. However since they were not that is still no excuse for killing innocent people. As far as Zimmerman he is an obvious nut case with connections to get him free. I can only speak for myself about killing. Even if it was self defense I would hope the person would run away than have to kill them. That has never happened fortunately but I have NO desire to kill. I do not understand why anyone else would either.

  • jay acklin

    Oan: his brother Fred Acklin … which is my da :) was in jail on a death row sentence as well he got out and he is a pastor now … SO YEAH BEIN IN JAIL OVER TIME CAN CHANGE SOMEONE …

    • Sue

      That is good that he is a pastor! So a lot of good came out of a bad situation. Yes things happen for a reason a lot of times. However I question whether that is the case all the time. Only God knows the answer because it is difficult to always see the reason why.

      • jay acklin

        Never said it was always good buy you said …. “and i quote” he changed ?? I i doubt that… and how would you khow … he been in there over 15 yrs and you dont even khow him you just khow of one incident bout him …. so all I been saying is who are you too judge trust. Me when he gets out he aint stunnin anybody but his family he has kids and a wife too go too …. TRUST MY FAMILY WOULDNT BE PAYING ALL THIS MONEY IF THEY AINT KHOW HE WAS A WHOLE TOTALLY DIFFERENT PERSON !! … I hate judgmental people and your being just that !!

  • Peg

    This man should never get a new trial – him, nor Wilson – they are cold blooded killers. I understand he had a less than perfect life, but who has had a perfect life. He chose to be a murderer. Here it is at Christmas, and just remember the victims did not have 15 Christmases that they have had, nor will they ever have one. They took 4 young people from their familes and friends, plus possibly ruined two others’ lives. Why would the court system EVEN consider a new trial because of a bad childhood. PUHLeeze.

    I don’t know him, but I know that he went home and went to sleep after doing all of that. Has he changed, I hope so, for his sake – has he told the victims’ families how much he’s changed? I don’t know, I hope so. BTW, I think George Zimmerman is also a murder (yes, I’m white) – It was an injustice. I’m sorry, I really am a bleeding heart liberal, I have no knowledge of the victims’ families – totally an outside bystander – there is no way I would ever be in charge of sending someone to their destiny. Nick had a fair trial – let it be.

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