BILOXI -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned the murder conviction of Harvill Richardson Sr., found guilty in Harrison County in 2011 of killing a homeless man he had allowed to stay in his home.
Richardson, 71, is serving a life prison term for the fatal shooting of 55-year-old Rudy Quilon on Oct. 20, 2009.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled the trial judge erred by refusing to allow a self-defense claim with evidence that would have shown Richardson's state of mind at the time of the killing. The high court said the state erred by arguing incorrectly that Quilon's violent criminal history could not be used in Richardson's defense.
The Richardsons had allowed Quilon, a felon, to live with them after meeting him through their church.
Prosecutors argued Richardson instigated the shooting while the men were drinking.
The Supreme Court said a Harrison County jury was not allowed to hear testimony that Quilon had bragged about being a gang member in San Diego, killing a cell mate and executing a woman he described as a snitch. Quilon had warned he could hurt anyone who upset him.
The court said facts of the case show Quilon became "increasingly unwelcome" in the couple's home and wouldn't move out even though Richardson had offered to buy him a car and give him rent money.
Richardson told police Quilon had begun watching pornography on the couple's computer, and the men argued in the backyard after Quilon said he wanted to have sex with Richardson's wife. Richardson asked Quilon to leave and Quilon refused.
Richardson said Quilon went to the shed, where Richardson kept axes and other tools that could be used as weapons, and approached him in a threatening manner with his hand behind his back.
Richardson said he retrieved a gun, warned Quilon to back off and fired a warning shot at the ground but Quilon kept coming toward him and Richardson shot him in the stomach.
Michael Crosby, Richardson's attorney, said he has filed motions requesting Harvill be released on bond pending a new trial.