Appeals Court agrees former teacher James Ball’s murder indictment should be tossed out

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A State Appeals panel, by a narrow 3-2 decision, sided with former North Syracuse School District teacher James Ball. The majority agreed with a lower court judge that tossed out the murder indictment against Ball.

Ball is accused of shooting and killing his brother-in-law in the early morning hours of July 4, 2017.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department in Rochester made the ruling this week.

The majority agreed with Ball that the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office should have told the Grand Jury hearing the case about justifiable use of physical force in defense of premises.

They were only instructed on justifiable use of physical force in defense of a person.

Christopher Ross, Ball’s brother-in-law, was shot to death after the two men got into a physical altercation after a night of drinking at the Ball house.

James Ball and his wife maintain they forced Ross to leave, which he did, only to return to try and get back in the house.

They say at that point James Ball had gone to get a gun, load it, and shot Ross in self-defense.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, who was looking to have the indictment reinstated, says his office is appealing the decision, taking it to the highest court in New York.

The two dissenting judges wrote this as part of the decision:

Under the unique circumstances of this case, therefore, we discern no basis upon which the grand jury would have credited the theory of defense of premises where it had already rejected the defense-of-a-person theory. Thus, absent evidence of “prosecutorial wrongdoing, fraudulent conduct or, we cannot conclude that defendant met the “very precise and very high” statutory test to show that the grand jury proceeding was impaired by the People’s failure to include an instruction for justification in defense of premises

Finally, we note our concern that the majority’s approach creates a new and burdensome precedent that injects the courts too deeply into the grand jury process, effectively requiring the People to always charge every complete defense that is potentially plausible, irrespective of the People’s view of the evidence, which vitiates their “wide discretion in presenting their case to the [g]rand [j]ury” (Lancaster, 69 NY2d at 25). We decline to engage in that endeavor.

Ball remains free on bail but still charged with murder.

Ball has retired from Smith Road Elementary School where he worked.

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