Asheville, NC (ACT) -- Devon Armond Gayles acted in self-defense when he shot a man in the chest after being repeatedly attacked inside a crowded downtown nightclub, his attorney told jurors Tuesday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, every shooting is not a murder," attorney Sam Craig said in his opening argument in Gayles' trial in Buncombe County Superior Court. "Even convicted felons have the right to defend themselves."
But Assistant District Attorney Thomas Amburgey said Anthony "T.C." Carter didn't deserve to be killed in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2011, at Hole N Da Wall on South Market Street.
Carter backed into Gayles, causing him to spill his drink, the prosecutor said. Words were exchanged, and Carter pushed Gayles, who responded by pulling out a gun and fatally shooting him in the chest, Amburgey said.
"It was not an act of self-defense," Amburgey said. "It was an act of malice. That's second-degree murder."
Jury selection in Gayles' trial began Monday. Assistant District Attorney Chris Hess said the trial could last into early next week. Gayles, 37, faces charges of second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and being a habitual felon.
Gayles will take the witness stand in his own defense, his attorney said.
Craig agreed with Amburgey's account that harsh words were exchanged after Gayles' drink was spilled but said his client was attacked.
"Mr. Carter struck Devon in the mouth more than once," Craig said. "He's hit by Mr. Carter, a man he knows to be a gang member."
The attorney said Gayles turned to leave but was struck by Carter again, this time from behind. He said Gayles didn't bring a gun into the bar but found one on the floor during the scuffle.
"He picked up the gun, and he turns, and Mr. Carter attacks him again, and Devon pulls the trigger," Craig said.
Gayles fled the bar, tossed the gun into a Dumpster and went to his home in the Candler area.
Gayles only learned later that he had shot Carter, Craig said.
Authorities said Carter, 32, who had two daughters, lost consciousness as he attempted to leave the bar. He was taken to Mission Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Gayles was captured more than a month later at a home in Cincinnati, where he had family.
Carter's criminal record includes felony convictions for drug trafficking, assaulting an officer and being a habitual felon, according to N.C. Department of Correction records.