WALLA WALLA — Timothy Parlor exhaled, smiled, looked upward, and raised his hands in the air in a quick, silent clap.
Then the tears of relief started flowing.
He had just heard the words “not guilty,” sparing him about 13 to 15 years behind bars.
Parlor’s mother, sitting in the Courthouse courtroom behind him, also sobbed.
“I’m comin’ home, mom,” Parlor told her. “I’m coming home.”
The seven-man, five-woman jury acquitted Parlor, 19, late Wednesday afternoon of first-degree assault with a firearm following testimony at his two-day trial in Walla Walla County Superior Court.
The panel found him not guilty of shooting Blake D. Nelson in the alley behind the 1700 block of Portland Avenue in April.
The trial moved more quickly than some observers predicted. Testimony was expeditious, Parlor chose not to testify and it took the jury only 50 minutes of deliberations to reach its unanimous verdict.
Parlor — who through his attorney Richard Wernette maintained his innocence throughout the trial — tearfully thanked jurors as they left the courtroom.
“You saved my life. I appreciate it,” he said.
Wernette then embraced him and told him quietly, “This gives you an opportunity to do all those things you wanted to do.”
Parlor was released from the County Jail shortly afterward.
In an interview, Wernette said, “I’m very pleased for the verdict for Mr. Parlor and his family. I think the jury made a very just decision.”
Officials claimed that Nelson drove Parlor and another man, Shawn A. Crump, to the Eastgate alley early on the morning of April 13. Nelson and Crump admittedly had used methamphetamine at a gathering beforehand.
The two testified at this week’s trial that Parlor then pulled a .22-caliber pistol and shot Nelson multiple times. Nelson survived a life-threatening chest injury.
But Wernette argued it was Crump who pulled the trigger, likely because he and a drug-dealing group he belonged to called “The Regulators” were paranoid that Nelson was a police snitch.
Nelson is not telling the truth now because he’s afraid of that organization, Wernette told the jury in his closing argument.
“He’s scared to death,” Wernette said. “He’s so afraid of what will happen to him when he does.”
Crump’s testimony Wednesday about details of the shooting differed from what Nelson had told the panel. And Crump acknowledged trying to develop an alibi for where he was at the time. He’s serving 13 months in prison for lying to police regarding the case.
Evidence also revealed that Crump admitted to someone in a recorded telephone conversation from the County Jail to being a pathological liar.
Another prosecution witness, David L. Mills, testified Wednesday that Crump and Parlor went to a residence where Mills was sleeping after the shooting and Parlor said, “I missed, I missed, I missed. Hopefully he doesn’t snitch.”
But Mills, who was part of “The Regulators,” said he was coming down from a methamphetamine high when he encountered Parlor and admitted making a false statement to police in 2010. He currently is in the County Jail on unrelated charges.
“The case against Timothy Parlor is built on the stories of drug addicts, drug dealers, convicted liars to the police and a pathological liar in his own words,” Wernette told the jury in his closing argument.
“Timothy had no motive, nothing,” Wernette said, adding that Parlor had only been in the community about two weeks and barely knew Nelson.
By its verdict, the panel agreed the prosecution didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that comes as a “big disappointment” to Walla Walla police Detective Marlon Calton.
“There’s no doubt in my mind what happened,” he told the Union-Bulletin afterward.
Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said in an interview he’s not concerned about claims that Crump shot Nelson and Nagle might have inadvertently let Crump off with a relatively light sentence by allowing him to plead guilty to a reduced charge.
Nagle maintains he had no choice but to let a jury decide the issue because the victim, Nelson, said Parlor was the shooter. “We had even less evidence that Shawn Crump did it,” he said.
But Nagle knew the evidence against Parlor might be problematic.
“Based on how this case developed, I’m not surprised (by the verdict). Police had a horrible time trying to ferret out the truth in this case. When they ended up getting statements from people, they were all tainted with credibility issues.”
Lies are common, loyalty non-existent and paranoia reigns supreme in the drug culture, and Nagle said there is a lesson to be learned by this trial.
“I don’t think people understand, unless they listened to testimony in this case, what drugs do to people.”
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.