By Linda Cicoira
An Accomack Circuit Court jury acquitted a 31-year-old Parksley man of murder Wednesday because as one juror told a Shore Daily News reporter, the jurors weren’t given enough options to convict the defendant, despite that they thought he should have faced some consequences for the death.
The panel deliberated for three hours and 40 minutes in the case of Ambrose Felix Devon Knox, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder of 41-year-old Joseph Northam, of Tasley. Knox admitted to shooting Northam on May 2, 2020, after the victim got angry over his loss of $5 in a dice game. Northam came around the table where the gamblers were sitting, pushed the defendant several times, and threw a beer bottle or can at the defendant’s face, according to testimony.
Knox was bleeding and the blood was getting in his eyes. “I looked up and he was still coming towards me,” the defendant said. “It was like he was reaching for something.”
Knox said he got scared and pulled out a gun and shot Northam. Then he ran because most of the people gambling around the garage table near Parksley, were the victim’s relatives. He later turned himself, the gun, and the magazine into the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office. Knox said he had a carry permit.
The defendant’s cousin, Bryan Taylor, of New Church, said Knox had won the bet but he gave $20 to Northam so he would settle down about the money. “But he kept going. He wouldn’t leave it alone,” Taylor said. “I felt a splash. I turned to see Mr. Knox wiping his face off while he was bleeding” and saw Knox shoot Northam.
Three other men who were at the scene that night testified against Knox. They were all felons and related to Knox.
In closing arguments, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan told the jury, “The defendant pushed the nuclear button … in an argument over $5. Ladies and gentleman that is not self-defense.”
Defense lawyer Tom Northam, who was not related to the victim, urged the jury to acquit. “He gave a voluntary statement,” he said of his client. “If you tell the truth, it comes out the same way every time.”
Judge W. Revell Lewis III told the jurors they had three choices, convict the defendant of second-degree murder, convict him of voluntary manslaughter, or acquit. Both lawyers had agreed to the stipulations. At one point during the deliberations, jurors asked why involuntary manslaughter was not among their choices. Lewis told them they had to stick to the instructions. Both lawyers agreed.