Appeals court upholds murder conviction

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals recently upheld the felony murder conviction of a man tried last year in a Covington County cold case file.

Eugene Wallace Black, 55, of Andalusia, was convicted in August 2015 for the murder of James “Nibby” Barton.

The Attorney General’s Criminal Appeals Section handled the case during the appeals process, arguing for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to affirm the conviction.

Attorney General Luther Strange commended Assistant Attorney General Cecil Brendle for his successful work in the case.

In October 2015, then-presiding Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan sentenced Black to 840 months, or 70 years in prison.

Black was charged in 2013 along with three other people – Sheila Ellison Brooks, Sheila Walker Williams and Sandra Ellison Lynn – for the 1994 murder of Barton at his convenience store.

Brooks died in jail shortly after being arrested for the crime.

Lynn and Williams both took plea deals.

McKathan ordered Black to pay court costs, a $100 assessment to the Alabama Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and restitution in the amount of $3,543 for the victim’s funeral expenses.

In 2013, District Attorney Walt Merrell commissioned the District Attorney’s Cold Case Task Force.

He named Investigator Wesley Snodgrass as a team leader and assigned the investigation of the Barton murder to Snodgrass’ team.

At trial, evidence was presented showing that on the morning of May 2, 1994, Black and others discussed their need for money, and one of Black’s associates mentioned that Barton possessed large amounts of cash at his convenience store. Testimony at trial revealed that Black acquired a pistol from an associate and that he left with three others soon thereafter. An eyewitness testified that she saw Black and three other people speeding away from Barton’s store around the same time of the murder. Another eyewitness testified that he was present when Black and two associates returned to his residence. The two eyewitnesses identified the same associates. Sandra Lynn, who pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Robbery for her part in the planning of the crime, testified that when Black returned, he told her, “The robbery went bad.” Also, a former employer of Black testified at trial that in 2013, Black told him that he was nervous about the renewal of the investigation of Barton’s murder, and admitted that he had killed Barton during the robbery.

Merrell prosecuted the case.

Black was represented at trial by Montgomery attorney Peter Bush.

Black is currently serving time in Fountain Correctional Facility.