- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama judge will decide whether to grant immunity to a man charged with murder in the gunshot slaying of an Auburn University football player after the suspect testified he shot only after the athlete opened fired outside a party.

The Opelika-Auburn News (https://bit.ly/1WwAEch ) reported Wednesday that Markale Hart testified at a hearing held Tuesday about the December 2014 death of 18-year-old Jakell Mitchell, a freshman on the Auburn squad from Opelika. Charged with murder, Hart is seeking immunity from prosecution under Alabama’s stand-your-ground law.

Evidence showed Hart, of Camp Hill, and cousin Tyrone Rowe were at a party in Auburn when they saw Mitchell. Rowe testified that Mitchell was angry that Rowe liked a photo of Mitchell’s girlfriend on Instagram.

Hart, who turns 24 on Thursday and is jailed awaiting trial while he serves time on a previous burglary conviction, said Rowe and Mitchell argued and that Mitchell opened fired. Hart said he returned fire using a handgun that another partygoer handed to him.

“I don’t remember how many times I shot,” Hart said. “I didn’t stop shooting until he stopped shooting.”

But Ayanna Hughley, Mitchell’s girlfriend, testified both Rowe and Hart had guns, and that Hart shot first.

“I said to Markale, ‘Please, don’t kill him,’” Hughley said.

Forensic evidence matched Mitchell to a handgun at the scene, police testimony testified.

Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes will rule later on Hart’s motion. If Hughes finds Hart was acting in self-defense under the Alabama stand-your-ground law, the murder charge could be dismissed.

The shooting happened at the same apartment complex where one-time football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and a third man, DeMario Pitts, were shot to death during an argument at a late-night gathering in June 2012. Desmonte Leonard is serving life without parole after being convicted in that shooting.

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