Dunwoody woman cleared in husband's shooting

Lona Scott, 47, the mother of two, had told jurors that if she hadn’t killed her husband, Cliff, he would have killed her.

Fighting back tears, Scott mouthed “thank you” to jurors as not-guilty verdicts were read aloud to murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and illegal firearm possession charges.

She then hugged her lawyer, Brian Steel, and was soon embraced by relatives and friends who sat through the weeklong trial.

“I’m so very happy,” Scott, who has been free on $500,000 bond, said after leaving the courtroom. “I know that justice was served. I can’t wait to see the kids tonight.”

Cliff Scott's family lined the benches behind the prosecution, just as Lona Scott's supporters filled the seats behind the defense. The dead man's father said Friday he did not buy Lona Scott's story.

“It’s a great miscarriage of justice,” John Scott said walking out of the courtroom. “I don’t see how you can shoot someone six times and claim self-defense.”

This was the second time DeKalb prosecutors tried to convict Scott. In her first murder trial in February, the jury deadlocked, causing a mistrial. This time, the jury deliberated seven hours before returning its verdict.

“There just wasn’t enough evidence to disprove self-defense,” Boyd Baker, 45, a member of the six-man, six-woman jury said. Baker said the forensic evidence backed up Scott's story.

Another juror, Thyé Wilcox, 21, of Lithonia, said, “There were a lot of unturned stones. It was a difficult decision. What she did was wrong, but we can only deal with what they gave us.”

When police arrived at the Scotts’ three-story home after 3 a.m. on March 4, 2008, 42-year-old Cliff Scott, who ran a thriving trucking company in Forest Park, was dead on the floor of the master bedroom. He had been shot once in the left chest, twice in the elbows, twice in the upper back and once in the head.

Prosecutors contended that Lona Scott killed him to gain control of his $5 million estate. The couple was going through a bitter divorce and he was selling his assets and properties and moving the money into an offshore account in the Bahamas. He was planning to leave for the Bahamas within a week and stay there for six months and let the family house go into foreclosure, according to testimony.

Lona Scott, a graduate of Parkview High School, testified that on the morning of the killing, her husband had put her in a chokehold.

She said she got him to release her when she cried out the name of their daughter, who was sleeping in a room next door. She said she tumbled out of bed, grabbed her .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic target pistol from a drawer. She went across the room to get her purse and keys so she could get her daughter and leave, she testified.

But Cliff Scott cornered her, she said. When she said she had a gun, he said that gave him permission to kill her. Cliff Scott, a muscular workaholic, then charged at her, she testified.

“I never wanted to shoot my husband,” she told the jury. “But I knew he was going to kill me.”

If she hadn’t opened fire, she testified, “I would be dead right now.”

Don Geary, chief assistant DeKalb district attorney, said the issue was always whether Lona Scott acted in self-defense.

The evidence led prosecutors to believe otherwise, and that is why the office brought the case, he said.

“The jury has spoken and the case is now closed,” Geary said.

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