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Ariz. Criminal Defense Attorney Is Charged with 2nd-Degree Murder in Road-Rage Incident

Posted Nov 14, 2011 12:55 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An Arizona criminal defense lawyer was charged Friday with second-degree murder after allegedly slaying a fellow motorist in a road-rage incident the previous evening.

Police said attorney David Ross Appleton, 59, told them that victim Paul Thomas Pearson, 50, tailgated his Toyota SUV and followed him into a pharmacy parking lot, where Pearson, Appleton said, reached inside his window and began choking him. At that point, the attorney said, he pointed a revolver at Pearson and, when Pearson didn't let go, shot him once in the chest, according to KSAZ, a Fox News affiliate; Scripps Media, based on information from a local ABC News affiliate; and the Valley Fever blog of the Phoenix New Times.

However, authorities found no evidence that Appleton had been choked, and inconsistencies in his story resulted in the second-degree murder charge, the articles say.

A friend of Pearson says he was a gentle man famous for his slow driving and speculated that the incident was sparked when Pearson drove at perhaps five miles below the speed limit. A relative happened to be talking with Pearson on his cell phone at the time and gave an account to police, but it isn't immediately clear what the relative said.

The Scripps article says Appleton had several speeding violations on his driving record. He is a former president of the Phoenix Trial Lawyer's Association.

At last report, Appleton was being held in the Maricopa County jail. As many as 10 of his supporters have been picketing outside, the KSAZ article reports.

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