Jury convicts Iraq War veteran of murder in South Dakota

A federal court jury in Pierre on Friday convicted James Gregg, an Iraq war veteran from Harrold, of second-degree murder in the July 4 shooting death of an American Indian man from Crow Creek reservation.

Gregg, 23, was accused of shooting James Fallis, 26, five times.

The jury rejected the prosecution's argument that the slaying was premeditated, so Gregg was not convicted of first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder is a killing without premeditation, as in a sudden quarrel or fight.

The penalty for a second-degree murder conviction is any number of years in prison up to life behind bars. The jury also convicted Gregg of using a firearm while committing a felony.

Gregg had testified that his combat experience in Iraq made him contemplate suicide during and after his 11 months of wartime duty with the Army National Guard.

People on both sides of the courtroom cried after the verdict was read. Gregg's mother wept and was consoled by her husband, who helped her out of the courtroom.

On the Fallis side of the room, someone quietly said "yes" as the conviction was announced.

Gregg's bond was revoked, and he was turned over to the U.S. Marshal's Service, despite his lawyer's request that he be allowed out on bond.

Jerrod Fallis, the victim's twin brother, hugged people on the way out of the courtroom. "I'm glad he got what he deserves," Fallis said.

The defense lawyer, Tim Rensch, said after the verdict that he did not want to comment.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mikal Hanson, was not available for comment.

Hanson told jurors that Gregg sought revenge because Fallis and his cousin beat up Gregg after they were told Gregg spun his tires and kicked up rocks on Fallis' car.

Gregg testified that he shot Fallis because he believed Fallis was running for a gun in his trunk. He said he didn't know that Fallis was one of the people who hit him and didn't remember kicking up rocks.

But he said he wanted to apologize so Fallis didn't retaliate against him or his family.

The families live about eight miles apart.

In his closing arguments, Rensch said Fallis had a reputation for violence and Gregg was afraid of what Fallis might do.

Gregg already had the gun in his pickup and pulled it out of the case when Fallis threatened to get a gun, he said.

"If he pulled up and had that pistol ready to go and decided he was going to kill James Fallis, he would have shot him right in the chest. If there were a bunch of bullet holes in the chest, we could be looking at first-degree murder," Rensch said.

"They're in the back and the side."

Carson Walker, Rapid City Journal (South Dakota)
Posted 2005-02-12 12:53:00.0


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