Jordan Ballard filed a notice of appeal this week of his conviction on murder and other charges in the death of Justyn Simmons.
Last month, a jury convicted Ballard of killing Justyn Simmons and shooting at his brother Victor.
Already facing a ten-year federal prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a handgun at the time of the killing, Ballard faced up to life in prison for the two convictions handed down in the 15th state District Court.
Ballard pleaded guilty to the federal charge in 2016. He was originally sentenced to 30 years in prison on that charge after Federal District Judge Amos Mazzant used a legal technique called cross-referencing to enhance his punishment. To do that, Mazzant had to find that it was more probable than not that Ballard had murdered Justyn Simmons. That federal sentence was appealed and ultimately Mazzant sentenced Ballard to the ten-year term he has been serving since 2016.
This week, State District Judge Jim Fallon held a sentencing hearing on the April 2015 murder and other charges. Fallon sentenced Ballard to 60 years in prison on those charges.
The notice of intent to appeal filed by Ballard's attorney Larry Jarrett set out a number reasons for the appeal including the fact that Fallon had issued an Allen Charge over the defense's objections after the jury announced it was deadlocked on at least one charge in the case. The Allen Charge acknowledges the jury's assertion that it is deadlocked but urges the jury to continue to deliberate considering the time and cost to all involved if the case has to be retried. Ultimately, the jury in Ballard's case did reach a verdict.
The appeal notice also noted the Court's decision to give a limiting instruction in the charge (rules given to jurors to use during a deliberation) to the self-defense issue raised by the defense. The defense, the notice said, objected to that instruction.
The defense also noted Fallon's decision not to allow a change of venue in the case and refusal to grant the defense's motion to acquit Ballard, “before and after the jury verdict since the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that self-defense was not an issue in the case and the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that facts giving rise to the presumption did not exist.”
Additionally, the notice pointed to Fallon's failure to declare a mistrial after the jury had stated that they were “hopelessly hung.”
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Britton Brooks prosecuted the case. He said it is fairly typical for a defendant to appeal such a conviction and sentence.
“The evidence at trial was clear,” Brooks said. “The jury diligently deliberated and, as always, I maintain confidence in our legal system.”