WINCHESTER — In the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass in football, lawyers for convicted murderer Quadell Alik Grimes are asking that the jury’s verdict be set aside.
On Aug. 11, jurors recommended a 30-year sentence for Grimes, who shot an unarmed Kevin Michael Riley in a restaurant parking lot on Oct. 28 of last year. Grimes is scheduled to be sentenced in Winchester Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Grimes is suspected of shooting at Riley in 2015 as part of a long-running feud between the two. But in a Thursday filing to Judge Brian M. Madden, defense attorney William "Ben" Mann IV wrote that since the meeting last year between Grimes and Riley was by chance, there was no premeditation by Grimes. And because Riley was a convicted felon who'd threatened Grimes on Instagram, Mann said Grimes had a reasonable fear for his life when Riley approached Grimes' car in the Five Guys/Okinawa Restaurant parking lot on Adams Drive.
Grimes, a 30-year-old Hagerstown, Maryland, resident who was visiting family in Stephens City, had stopped at Five Guys for a milkshake. Riley, a 29-year-old city resident, was on his way to dinner at Okinawa when the car he was in parked near Grimes. As Riley approached Grimes' car, Grimes fired one shot from the driver's seat, killing Riley and then sped away.
"What happened once Riley approached Grimes' vehicle was consistent with a heat-of-the-moment reaction and not consistent in any way with malice requisite for murder," Mann wrote. "Whether or not Riley's actions justify the defendant's lethal force, there is no question that the confrontation happened with no notice and ended in a manner of seconds."
Mann also noted that shortly before closing arguments, a jury room door was accidentally left open and jurors saw deputies escorting Grimes back to his holding cell. Mann argued that prejudiced jurors against his client and justifies a new trial.
In a response motion, Matthew Occhuizzo, assistant commonwealth attorney and the lead prosecutor on the case, said Madden should dismiss Mann's motion. Besides Riley being unarmed, two prosecution witnesses who were with Riley said he made no threatening statements before being shot and his hands were at his side.
"The defendant lowered his window and shot Riley though the heart without any provocation from Riley," Occhuizzo wrote. "These actions by the defendant were consistent with a malicious act and inconsistent with a person acting out of fear."
Occhuizzo also noted one of the prosecution's witnesses was an informant who shared a cell with Grimes. Therefore, jurors already knew Grimes was in jail before they saw him led to a cell. And Occhuizzo noted Mann was notified by the prosecution during the trial about jurors seeing deputies escorting Grimes, but he didn't seek a mistrial or request jurors be instructed by Madden to disregard what they saw during deliberations.
If Madden dismisses Mann's motion to set aside the verdict, Mann asked in a separate motion that he sentence Grimes within state sentencing guideline recommendations rather than giving him the 30 years the jury recommended. The guidelines range from 13 years to 21 years and eight months.
Mann said Grimes had a "limited misdemeanor record" with the crimes occurring when he was between 18 and 20. He said Grimes has expressed regret for killing Riley and said the father of four young children is active in their lives. Family members also sought leniency in letters to Madden.
"I know with all my heart that my brother is not a monster," wrote Sarita Emmons. "We are devastated at the loss of another human being. I ask you to please consider my words and show leniency."
Riley, known for his goofy sense of humor and generosity, was devoted to his family, according to relatives. He was also well known and liked in Winchester. Some 300 people turned out at a candlelit memorial for him shortly after he was killed and several hundred attended a memorial kickball tournament for him in July.