'Stand Your Ground' defense used in murder of Auburn University football player

Markale Hart. (Source: Auburn Police Department)
Markale Hart. (Source: Auburn Police Department)
Published: Apr. 6, 2016 at 8:53 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 2, 2017 at 2:10 PM EST
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AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - The attorney for a man accused of killing an Auburn University football player expects the case will end before it goes to trial, based on "Stand Your Ground" laws.
On Wednesday, defendant Markale Hart was supposed to have his immunity hearing. However, some of the witnesses expected to testify that Hart shot Jakell Mitchell in self-defense, but they did not receive their subpoenas in time.

The hearing was pushed back. As Mitchell's father Mario left the courtroom, he told us he has faith the system will work for his son.

"We just pray a lot, we don't talk about it along, we just want the process to get started so we can go on with our lives... just trusting the process," Mario said.

Another delay for Jakell Mitchell's family as the judicial process did not move forward Wednesday, as defendant Markale Hart's immunity hearing is delayed because witnesses weren't ready.

Hart's attorney is confident that when the hearing is held, the case will never make it to trial after the judge hears testimony from four witnesses who claim Hart was acting in self-defense.
"We think it is a clear case, the court should and will gr ant Mr. Hart immunity from prosecution, this is based on what we call 'Stand Your Ground' law," said Jerry Blevins, Hart's attorney. "Multiple eyewitnesses will testify Mr. Mitchell pointed the gun and fired the first shot and Hart shot in self-defense we believe immunity will be gr anted and the case will be concluded."

Hart is charged with murdering Jakell Mitchell just before Christmas in 2014 at Auburn's Tiger Lodge Apartment complex. Investigators say Mitchell got into an argument with Hart's friend, Tyrone Rowe, leading to Mitchell and Hart exchanging gunfire.

Hart's attorney says his client was trying to get Mr. Rowe to leave the situation, and Mitchell followed them to the car.

"Mr.  Mitchell followed them downstairs armed with a weapon and confronted Mr. Rowe and my client in the parking lot and pointed the weapon at Mr. Rowe and my client and fired the first shot... my client returned fire and we have the tragedy that brought us here today," said Blevins.
Meanwhile, Jakell's father says his son is the clear victim, whose promising life was cut short by violence.

"Jakell, his memory will live on, he is a pillar in this community, so many people love him and they show us every day," said his dad.

The immunity hearing has been pushed to May 31. Hart's attorney says he will call four witnesses to the stand that day, including his client to testify.

Hart was on probation for a burglary charge in Tallapoosa County at the time of the homicide. He is currently in jail for violating his probation when he was arrested for Mitchell's murder.

It's not clear if the judge will make his decision that day and either deny or gr ant immunity based on "Stand Your Ground," or if he will issue his decision later. Either way, we will continue following this story and bring you more updates as they become available.

RELATED: Markale Hart indicted for murder by Lee Co. Grand Jury

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