Sunday, June 03, 2012

Jeramiah Chamberlain tells his side of story regarding shooting

He said he knows residents of Montgomery County are sick of gun incidents.

Jeramiah Chamberlain faces 20 years to life in prison.

Weeks removed from a mistrial in the attempted capital murder case, Chamberlain, 32, talked at length about his situation during an interview last week from the Western Virginia Regional Jail. Chamberlain wrote a letter to The Roanoke Times asking to get a chance to discuss his case.

He was on trial last month on charges stemming from a May 2011 incident in which shots were exchanged with a police officer. The incident happened at Chamberlain's mother's home on Ellett Drive in Christiansburg last year when three officers showed up to arrest him on a warrant for a misdemeanor destruction of property charge.

A retrial is set for August.

Chamberlain said he's fearful that given recent shootings that took place, the jury might hear "guns" and "cops" and have their minds made up.

"I'm scared to death," Chamberlain said. "There's a lot of prejudice with this case with just the area and the recent history."

Chamberlain, during the interview, specifically mentioned the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech, the killing of Virginia Tech police Officer Deriek Crouse last year, as well as the William Morva case in Montgomery County.

The day of the incident in which he was involved, Chamberlain said he was undergoing methadone withdrawal as part of drug treatment, and had a lot of "stress factors" that had him not thinking clearly. When the police entered the house, he said he first attempted to jump out of a steep second-story window.

Chamberlain was shot in the arm, and said he didn't find out his gun discharged until he got to the hospital. His arm went numb after the shot and Chamberlain said he doesn't know whether his gun fired at that point or when it hit the ground.

"All I can say, that I know 100 percent sure, is I did not pull the trigger," Chamberlain said.

He said that the hole in the wall created by his bullet was 29 inches from the floor, a nonlethal location, and presented pictures while giving his account of the situation.

According to Chamberlain, a juror from the previous trial called his attorney, Will Clemons, and expressed that most wanted to find Chamberlain guilty, while this particular juror was a holdout. Clemons confirmed that he received the call.

In order for him to be found guilty of attempted capital murder, the jury must rule that Chamberlain intended to kill the officer.

As he looks toward his retrial, Chamberlain said he hopes to be able to present a strong case. He chose to represent himself during the first trial, before later deciding to turn part of the proceedings over to Clemons.

"It was awkward at first, but I got my wind during the cross-examination. I believe I was able to prove some valid points," he said.

Chamberlain said that because his life was at stake, he chose to represent himself, because he wanted to have more flexibility to present his viewpoints or attack arguments with firsthand knowledge.

Clemons was "totally against it," he said. He hasn't yet decided whether he's going to represent himself again, but said he's considering it.

Clemons told The Roanoke Times last week that he had advised Chamberlain not to do the interview with the newspaper, but that it was Chamberlain's decision.

Should he be acquitted, Chamberlain said he wants nothing more than to fade out of the public eye, move to another state, travel and enjoy the outdoors. Chamberlain said he'd be leaving behind some painful memories.

Drug use plagued much of his past, he said, having used black tar heroin for the first time at age 14 and later using OxyContin. He said his life was all about getting high.

"It was all downhill from there."

Chamberlain said he has overdosed twice, and had been clean and in treatment for the past few years.

His right arm "hurts like hell," he said, and is still wrapped. He said he has little feeling in some parts of his hand, developed arthritis and requires surgery.

"I probably can predict the weather and fishing reports better than The Roanoke Times guys now," he said.

The jail switched him to a different type of medicine, Chamberlain said, which doesn't take care of the pain as well.

Maj. Greg Winston with the jail said he was not at liberty to discuss Chamberlain's medical records, but said that inmates aren't denied treatment and he's "confident in our medical services."

Chamberlain said he hopes his retrial is conducted without prejudice, despite the circumstances.

"The community is sick of it [gun incidents]. I don't blame them," he said. "But at the same time, I don't want them to hang me for something I didn't do."

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