Netherland Found Guilty On 1st-Degree Murder Of Natalie Gibson

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A jury Wednesday found Jimmy Netherland guilty on all seven charges against him, including the first-degree murder of Natalie Gibson.

Jimmy Netherland returned to the courtroom Wednesday just before 3 pm.

The jury, a panel of nine women and three men, deliberated for about five hours total before they reached a verdict.

"We the jury find the defendant guilty of first degree murder in an attempted aggravated robbery," the court clerk read.

Natalie Gibson's friends and family, including her partner Lori Allison who was wounded in the shooting July 21, 2011, erupted in tears upon hearing the first "guilty."

Six more followed.

Jimmy Netherland, 18, is found guilty on two alternate counts of first-degree murder of the 40-year-old Natalie Gibson, attempted robbery of Gibson, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery of Gibson, aggravated battery of Allison and attempted burglary of a vehicle in another crime.

Defense Attorney Linda Eckelman said she was shocked by outcome.

"I've never tried a case in 30 years that had as much reasonable doubt in it as this case," she told 13 News.

"[The prosecution] had no forensic evidence whatsover. In this case they had three cooperating individuals, that talked about the case to save their own hides and got sweetheart deals and the jury believed them," she said.

Jurors declined to reveal details of the deliberations.

Assistant District Attorneys Chris Biggs and Charles Kitt would not comment, but prosecutors and Eckelman spoke to jurors for about half an hour after the verdict was rendered.

"We picked a really good jury I think, both for the state and the defense actually. because they really listened," Eckelman said. But she said she saw one problem.

"One mistake was letting them take notes. Because they relied too much on their notes. And then when they have a disparity of opinion in the jury room, they break the tie with somebody's written notes, which, you know what you hear and what you write down many times is just very different," she said.

Netherland's family did not make it to the courtroom in time to hear the verdict. They arrived minutes after Netherland was handcuffed and escorted out.

His sentencing is set for March 8.

Netherland is among nine people charged in the case -- trials for two other defendants ended with hung juries on the murder counts.

Previous report on the case from Jan. 09, 2013

Jimmy Netherland, accused in the first-degree murder of Natalie Gibson Wednesday faced one of the men allegedly with him the night of the crime.

Bayate Covington is cooperating with prosecutors.

He says he planned the robbery at 307 SW Quinton on July 21 2011.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Biggs asked Covington who was with him to "do the lick," slang for robbery, the night of the murder.

Covington identified eight others, including Jimmy Netherland. "Do you know who had guns with them?" Biggs asked.

Covington said he had a sawed off shotgun and, Netherland had one of two 45 caliber handguns at the scene.

He said Netherland was by the passenger side holding the gun in his right hand..."just standing there."

Defense attorney Linda Eckelman in cross-examination questioned Covington's credibility.

"How much of different types of drugs did you take on the day in question," she asked.

Covington answered: Alcohol, marijuana and then cocaine.

He also told the court several of the nine, suspects, including Netherland ran from the scene before they heard 3 shots fired.

Earlier Wednesday, police detectives testified they found shell casings and projectiles in and around the truck Natalie Gibson was shot in.

Anthoney Finney with the Topeka Police Department's crime scene investigation says he collected three shell casings, one on the ground, between the truck and the carport at 307 SW Quinton, another one on the ground south of the vehicle and one in the bed of the truck.

A projectile lodged in the southwest corner siding of the garage, by the truck's left rear, was also recovered.

Another TPD CSI witness, Frank Suggs, told jurors he recovered a a projectile from the center console of the vehicle. Photo evidence presented by the prosecution showed it covered in Gibson's blood. Officers testified Gibson was still seated in the front passenger seat, her legs partly outside and the door open.

"She appeared to be deceased," Officer Scott McEntire, who was one of the first officers at the scene, said

Assistant District Attorney Chris Biggs questioned Sergeant Scott Scurlock about statements Lori Allison made after the shootings.

Allison, Gibson's partner, was with her the night of July 21, 2011, both returning from Gibson's 40th birthday celebration. Allison had gotten out of the truck, after they pulled into their carport and was trying to retrieve birthday presents from the back of the vehicle.

"She was obviously upset, she'd been shot, she witnessed Natalie Gibson being shot and likely killed," Scurlock said. He interviewed her inside an ambulance.

Allison gave him the description of a black male, 5 foot 9 to 5 foot 10, in a red sweatshirt, who appeared form behind her, armed with a 9 mm handgun, Scurlock said.

"The mentioning of the red sweatshirt, is that specifically what you recall?" Biggs asked. "Yes," Scurlock.

Officers say Allison described the gun as a big 45 and shiny.

Detective George Henley said he was not aware there was more than one gun when he took that description from Allison.

Netherland is charged with first-degree murder of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson. He also faces counts of aggravated robbery of Gibson and of Allison and aggravated battery of Allison.

Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2013

Prosecutors in the jury trial for Jimmy Netherland, charged with first-degree murder of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson, laid out their strategies in Shawnee County Court Tuesday morning.

"First of all, he wasn't there. They know he wasn't there," defense attorney Linda Eckelman began her opening statement.

Prosecutors had a different picture of the night Gibson was shot after she and her partner Lori Allison returned to their home on 307 SW Quinton from "a night on the town."

Assistant District Attorney Charles Kitt told jurors they would hear testimony from four of the nine allegedly involved in the crime.

Bayate Covington, Duane Richey, Frednetta Winston, and Kevin Wilkins Jr were offered plea bargains to testify. "They put themselves [at the crime scene]," Kitt said. "They put Jimmy there."

Eckelman questioned the use of these witnesses and Covington in particular. She told jurors, "he is diagnosed bipolar, off his medication, drinking every day."

"This is a witness they're relying on to say all these kids were there," she said.

In the afternoon, family and friends listened as prosecutors played the 911 call Lori Allison just minutes after both were shot.

Allison took the stand in person.. prosecutor Chris Biggs showed jurors the gunshot wounds she survived - while Gibson died.

I saw the life drain out of her eyes, she said.

Netherland faces seven charges, including first-degree murder of Natalie Gibson, aggravated robbery of Gibson and of Allison and and aggravated battery of Allison.

The trial began half an hour late Tuesday morning after one juror was dismissed. She called late to say she was sick. The panel of jurors was sworn in without her, consisting now of nine women and five men, including two alternates.