Superior Court judges agree with finding against Indiana County man
A state Superior Court panel has upheld the conviction and life sentence of an Indiana County man found guilty of second-degree murder for killing his father-in-law in 2012.
Shaun Casey Fairman, 34, was sentenced May 28 by President Judge William Martin to life imprisonment for killing Richard Shotts, 55, of Rural Valley on June 3, 2012. A jury in April convicted Fairman of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
Upset because his estranged wife filed for divorce, Fairman went to Jessica Shotts' North Mahoning Township home at 12:30 a.m. carrying two guns. Richard Shotts and his wife, Candice, were at the home to protect their daughter, Jessica Shotts, and two of the couple's four children because they feared Fairman, according to trial testimony.
Fairman was convicted of breaking into the home along Route 210 and shooting Richard Shotts. When he found his estranged wife in a second-floor bedroom, Jessica Shotts fired her gun, hitting Fairman twice in a shoulder. She held him at bay until police arrived, according to trial testimony.
Candice Shotts then hid in the attic with the two children.
Fairman testified during his trial that he had been contemplating suicide and went to the home to kill himself in front of Jessica Shotts, who had a protection-from-abuse order against him.
Fairman was found guilty of burglary and two counts of aggravated assault. He was given sentences concurrent with his life term and ordered to pay $20,000 in prosecution costs.
In his appeal, Fairman argued that the jury was biased against him because Martin permitted them to view a grisly photograph of the crime scene and that Fairman could have received a lesser sentence if a tentative plea bargain had been accepted.
According to court documents, Candice Shotts initially agreed to a plea agreement last April 3, then telephoned District Attorney Patrick Dougherty's office the next morning to tell them “she was no longer in agreement with the plea.” Fairman was convicted on April 25.
The three-judge appellate panel of judges, Cheryl Lynn Allen and Mary Jane Bowes and Senior Judge John L. Musmanno, said in an eight-page opinion that they agreed with Martin's prior ruling rejecting enforcement of the tentative plea agreement.
The court ruled that the photograph was displayed for a short period of time and jurors had been properly instructed by Martin on its content.
“A mistrial is inappropriate where cautionary instructions are sufficient to overcome any potential prejudice,” the panel said.
Defense attorneys conceded during that trial that Fairman killed Shotts but contended he was unable to form the specific intent to kill because he was severely depressed and too intoxicated. His blood-alcohol content was 0.248 percent. A motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated at 0.08 percent.
The jury rejected a verdict of first-degree murder, which requires a specific intent to kill.
Paul Peirce is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.