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Attorney cites self-defense in 2007 shooting

“Sometimes the man that’s accused may be the best witness in thehouse,” said Greenville attorney Johnnie Walls, gesturing to hisclient, accused murderer Xavier Vaughan Tuesday afternoon duringjury selection for the Brookhaven man’s trial.

Vaughan is on trial this week, accused of murder in the March24, 2007 shooting death of Billy Ray Miller.

In his opening statement, Walls painted the picture of Vaughanas a family man who calmly confronted Miller about upsetting hispregnant wife in a family related domestic dispute. After that, hesaid, Vaughan left and went to a wake for a family member.

The result, Walls said, was Miller’s allegedly gathering up aposse of people looking for “Xavier, the guy in the orange shirt.”Walls described how Miller’s friends piled out of a line of carscarrying guns, sticks and baseball bats, and that Vaughanretreated.

“Evidence will show that Xavier Vaughan backed away fromMiller’s advances,” Walls said. “He did pick up his gun in case hehad to use it, and he did use it. But Billy Ray caused his owndeath. He was killed because he put himself in a position to bekilled.”

Meanwhile, the state contended that Miller’s death was not theresult of self-defense, but of opportunity. He said when Vaughansaw a reason to shoot Miller, who had been his brother’s collegeroommate, he took it.

“It’s not disputed that Billy Ray Miller came into the yard toconfront Xavier Vaughan,” said District Attorney Dee Bates. “Butwhen a bullet from a 9 mm clipped the back of his ear and enteredhis skull, it ended the life of Billy Ray and he died in that yard… Xavier Vaughan saw an opportunity.”

When the actual trial started, Lincoln County Deputy AndrewMontgomery testified that when he responded to the call of a fightin the Allen Hill area just inside the Lincoln County line, hefound a large crowd of agitated people. He said as he pulled up inthe driveway, he saw Miller lying on the ground unresponsive, andhe called for an ambulance.

Montgomery testified that when he found Vaughan, he asked him ifhe knew what happened.

“He said, ‘Yeah, I shot him,'” Montgomery said, adding thatthen-Sgt. Bruce Addison told him to go ahead and take Vaughan tojail. “As I put the cuffs on him, he said that he had shot him inself-defense.”

A jury of seven women and seven men was seated Tuesday to decideVaughan’s fate. The trial continued Wednesday and may last untilFriday. Testimony is expected from other law enforcement officers,medical examiners and witnesses.