Casper Man Found Not Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder But Still Faces Life
A Natrona County man on Wednesday was found not guilty of a murder charge against him, but it might not mean much as two guilty convictions issued against him carry with them a habitual criminal enhancement meaning he could face life behind bars.
The verdict issued late Wednesday afternoon came after Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen stood before the jury and said the actions of Jerald Thomas Fallon the night of February 29, 2020 — when he rammed Kelly Black with a Nissan Armada, killing her — went far beyond a tragic accident.
They were malicious.
"People don't back up at 40 mph," the prosecutor said. "We have common sense. We know that."
Twelve Natrona County jurors disagreed and found Fallon not guilty of second-degree murder.
But, they convicted him of manslaughter, which is typically punishable by at most 20 years behind bars. While malice is needed for a second-degree murder conviction, manslaughter is simply a crime of passion in the heat of the moment.
Jurors also convicted Fallon of aggravated assault.
The jury found that Fallon is a habitual criminal as a result of four prior felony convictions — a hit and run in South Dakota, conspiracy to commit grand theft in South Dakota, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance in Sheridan County and delivery of methamphetamine in Natrona County.
As a result, Fallon is facing a life sentence.
Black was 42.
Over the course of the trial, which began last week and wrapped up Wednesday, jurors heard testimony describing Fallon who was angry at Black over being drunk at a February 29, 2020 Christmas party in the hours leading up to the incident.
They also viewed security camera footage from Fallon leading Black out of the party by her arm. She could barely keep up with him.
According to charging documents, Fallon was traveling at between 38 and 42 mph when he intentionally backed into Black on the US 20-26 bypass near its intersection with Interstate 25. After the collision, Fallon loaded Black's body into the car and drove back to the Hilton-Garden Inn where the Christmas party was being held.
Then he fled the scene on foot and was on the lam for two days before law enforcement arrested him in Mills on a probation warrant.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Fallon's lead attorney, Joe Cole, said the events in the case. Fallon was simply looking for Black when he passed her on the highway. So he stopped and backed up to get to her, Cole said.
"This is a tragic accident," Cole said, later adding that the interpretation that Fallon was looking to commit murder was "utterly ridiculous."
Cole also said the damage done to the vehicle — there was a dent in the rear passenger corner and a taillight was broken — was inconsistent with someone trying to intentionally run over someone. If Fallon wanted to hit Black, Cole said, he would have hit her with the middle of the car.
"If you want to hit someone, you go forward," Cole said.
Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey ordered a pre-sentence investigation after jurors rendered their verdicts. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.