HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Monday morning, attorneys for Nicholas “Nick” Acklin began laying the groundwork for their claim that the death row inmate deserves a new trial. Allegations of abuse Acklin reportedly suffered as a child – which were not brought up at his 1998 trial – appear to be a prominent factor in their argument.
Acklin was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in a shooting that left four people dead and two others injured. On September 25, 1996, Acklin – along with Joey Wilson and Corey Johnson – went to a home on University Drive to find out who had filed a complaint against Wilson over a stolen cell phone. After what prosecutors described as hours of questioning and torture of those present at the home, Acklin and Wilson opened fire on the group.
Wilson was also sentenced to death. Johnson – who did not fire any shots – was sentenced to 15-years and has since been released from prison. However, attorneys for Acklin say he did not receive a fair trial and question the performance of Acklin’s original counsel, Behrouz Rahmati.
Rahmati was the first witness called to testify in the hearing. William Montross, Jr, Acklin’s new attorney, began with a long series of questions regarding retainer payments. Montross established Rahmati’s compensation averaged less than $100 a month through the course of the case, as Acklin’s mother was unable to afford the $25,000 retainer originally agreed upon. Rahmati said money was never the driving factor in his decision to take the case, adding, “I suspected strongly we were never going to get paid.”
Later questioning dealt with claims that Acklin had been abused as a child by his father. Rahmati described how Acklin’s mother told him in a meeting prior to sentencing, “at times…if he (Acklin’s father) was mad at the kids, he would hold them down, put a gun to them, threaten to shoot them, threaten to kill them.”
Rahmati said he would have liked to use that information at sentencing, in hopes a jury would find some sympathy for Acklin. However, he told Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer, his client’s father, Theodis “Ted” Acklin, denied the claims and refused to testify to them.
In addition, Rahmati said Nick Acklin – against legal advice – asked him not to pursue that avenue of inquiry out of fear it would hurt his parents. “If I recall, Nick said something to the effect of, they didn’t cause me to be here. I don’t want to ruin their lives,” Rahmati said. Ted Acklin is one of the witnesses subpoenaed to testify during the hearing, which is expected to take several days.