Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson sentenced Eric Lively to 15 years to life in prison and denied a motion for a new trial on Wednesday morning.
Lively was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury Feb. 1, and was in court for a hearing on the motion.
After Wilson denied the motion for a new trial, he announced the verdict and as many as a dozen people in the gallery cheered until they were admonished by Wilson and bailiff Sgt. Greg Musson.
“We don’t do that here,” said Wilson from the bench while Musson stepped forward and asked the gallery to “show some decorum in the courtroom,” prompting several people to quietly apologize.
Lively was convicted of hitting and killing a Shelter Cove neighbor, Jesse Simpson, 42, with his Toyota Tundra pickup truck on May 3, 2017, near the intersection of Debbie Lane and Eileen Road in Shelter Cove.
During the trial, it was demonstrated that Simpson and Lively were not on friendly terms. Witnesses at the trial, including Lively’s ex-girlfriend and daughter, testified that Lively had made death threats against Simpson and had accused him of stealing from him, including the day of Simpson’s death.
Lively’s attorney Russell Clanton argued in his closing arguments the testimony of the prosecution witnesses was not reliable and that it was Lively who was telling the truth. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada, responded during his closing that “not once did the defense show that any of those people were lying.”
Lively, who was wearing eyeglasses and a jail issued orange jumpsuit, remained stone-faced while standing behind Clanton as the sentence was handed down Wednesday.
Clanton had filed the motion for a new trial after he learned that members of the jury had asked questions of juror No. 5, a medical doctor. After hearing the arguments from Clanton and Kamada, the judge denied the motion.
Wilson said “a juror does not leave their life experience at the door and should use that experience when deliberating.”
Wilson went on to say that all jurors should take the time to analyze the evidence.
Lively was taken from the courtroom and will be turned over to the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.