Tearfully saying that her son's life was taken over something so "insignificant," Lisa Wright told a Lucas County common pleas judge she just doesn't understand the circumstances of Antonio Johnson's death.
"Instead of going to the door, he fired a shot that ended my son's life," Ms. Wright said of James C. Smith. "There was no reason for this."
Smith, 36, was sentenced to a total of four years in prison for the Dec. 30 shooting that ended his cousin's life. Originally charged with murder, Smith entered an Alford plea Aug. 6 to reckless homicide with a one-year gun specification because of laws protecting a homeowner's right to defend his residence.
In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence or does not admit he committed a crime, but acknowledges evidence is sufficient for a conviction. The court treats it as a guilty plea.
Before hearing his sentence, Smith told Judge Linda Jennings he didn't know, when he grabbed his gun as he jumped out of the shower, that the person banging on his door was his cousin. He said he was "very remorseful" that he killed his cousin.
"I thought the person came to kill me because there have been problems I have had," he said. "Once I realized it was my cousin, I did everything I could to save his life."
Authorities said a quarrel had begun between the two men when Smith learned that Mr. Johnson had sent text messages to Smith's girlfriend.
In response, Smith sent messages to Mr. Johnson's girlfriend implying that Mr. Johnson was interested in Smith's girlfriend.
As a result of the exchange, Mr. Johnson went to Smith's Parkdale Avenue address about 4:15 p.m. and banged violently on the door, authorities said.
The shot Smith fired through the door hit Mr. Johnson in the chest and pierced his heart. After opening the door, Smith tried to get the victim to a hospital and asked a neighbor to call for emergency help.
When police and medical crews arrived, Smith initially denied involvement, but then admitted he was the shooter, authorities said.
Assistant County Prosecutor Rob Miller said after the plea that further investigation of the incident showed Mr. Johnson was trying to break into Smith's home when he was shot. When considering the Castle Doctrine, Mr. Miller said that the plea was the appropriate resolution to the case.
According to case law, the Castle Doctrine says "a person is presumed to have acted in self-defense when attempting to expel or expelling another from his home who is unlawfully present." It states that a homeowner is "allowed to use deadly force or force great enough to cause serious bodily harm."
Judge Jennings said information about the incident indicated that Smith knew who was at his door when he fired the shot, because witnesses overheard the men quarreling.
She then ordered him to serve the maximum three-year sentence for reckless homicide, consecutive to the mandatory one-year gun specification.
"It's a tragedy anytime someone loses his life at the hands of another," she said. "What makes this more tragic is that this man was not a stranger to you."
Attorney Richard Roberts, who was appointed to represent Smith, told Judge Jennings he believed Smith was "genuinely" scared when he fired the single shot.
"He has taken responsibility for his action and he is very regretful for what occurred," Mr. Roberts said.
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.