Rachel found not guilty on all counts
by Wes Mayer
After deliberating for almost three hours Friday, a Coweta Superior Court jury found Milo Rachel, the Vietnam War veteran accused of slaying another man in April 2013, not guilty on all counts.
“I’m just happy for Milo,” said Rachel’s defense attorney, Public Defender Charles Cauble. “The jury focused on the evidence, which clearly showed what happened – that he was defending himself. And now he can move on from here.”
Rachel was indicted on counts of malice murder, aggravated assault, felony murder and possession of a knife by a convicted felon. On April 1, 2013, he was arrested for the fatal stabbing of Charles Skeen, 57, who died from an eight-inch knife wound which cut through his abdominal aorta. Skeen was found dead lying on the front porch of Rachel’s home.
The prosecution, led by Coweta County Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian, argued Rachel knowingly and maliciously killed Skeen after the two had an argument in Rachel’s home because Skeen wouldn’t leave. The defense, led by Cauble, argued Skeen’s death only came about because Rachel acted in self-defense, and Skeen, who had the reputation in the neighborhood of being a fighter and a bully, was actually the aggressor.
Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer presided over the trial.
The trial began Monday with the selection of the jury, and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, attorneys called their witnesses. On Friday morning, both attorneys gave their closing arguments.
Mooradian argued in his closing that Rachel lied throughout the investigation, especially during his interviews with police, and his actions after the altercation between Skeen were not that of an innocent man. Cauble argued that Rachel was not charged with lying, he was charged with murder, and the jury shouldn’t focus on what Rachel did afterwards; they should focus on what was going through Rachel’s mind during the fight.
According to Rachel, who took the stand on Thursday to testify in his own defense, Skeen came to his house asking for money, and when Rachel told him no, Skeen asked for a lighter. When Rachel wouldn’t let Skeen have the lighter either, Skeen knocked Rachel’s tray of food onto the floor and hit Rachel in the face.
Rachel said Skeen hit him again, he was knocked onto the floor, Skeen got on top of him and began pounding on him – Skeen also grabbed Rachel’s throat and began choking him. Because of this, Rachel grabbed the closest thing he could find, which was the eight-inch hunting knife lying on the floor, and stabbed Skeen. Rachel said he wished it was something like a can of mace, but he was scared Skeen would kill him and he had to save his own life.
“It was a difficult case,” Mooradian said. “I think this case had a lot of unanswered questions before the trial, and a lot was answered during the trial through the defendant’s testimony which the jury found credible. But the defense did a great job.”
The jury went into deliberation around 1:15 p.m. Friday and reached a verdict around 4:15 p.m. They found Rachel not guilty of malice murder, aggravated assault and felony murder. The charge of possession of a knife during the commission of a crime was not prosecuted.
“We just thank God he was found not guilty,” said Norrice Jordan, who is related to Rachel.
Rachel was also indicted for the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. However, even though the firearm was discovered during the murder investigation, the charge was kept separate, or bifurcated, from the murder trial.
After hearing the non-guilty verdict, Rachel chose to plead guilty to the firearm possession charge. Palmer then sentenced Rachel, who spent some time in jail during the murder investigation, to serve five years of probation with special conditions, including he must report to his probation officer, he cannot drink or do drugs during probation, he must undergo a drug evaluation and he may be searched without a warrant and be drug tested.