Appeals Court upholds life sentence for teen murder convict

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the murder conviction for a Shelby County teen who was found guilty last year of killing a victim with a baseball bat during a 2015 fight.


On Aug. 29, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office announced the Appeals Court had upheld the conviction of Eric Matthew Blackerby on one count of murder. A jury found Blackerby guilty in September 2017 of killing William Neff during a “violent attack” with an aluminum baseball bat during a fight at an outdoor area known as “the slab” in northwestern Shelby County. Blackerby was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

Blackerby’s attorneys appealed the conviction to the state Court of Criminal Appeals after Shelby County Circuit Court Judge William Bostick denied Blackerby’s request for a new trial in November 2017.

During the trial, witnesses testified Eric Blackerby’s brother, Andrew Blackerby, was on top of Neff hitting him when “Eric Blackerby approached and then hit Neff in the head with a baseball bat with a great amount of force.”

“After the fight had finished and Neff was getting back up, Eric Blackerby came behind him and struck him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat,” read a statement from the AG’s office. “An autopsy determined that Neff died of multiple ‘blunt force trauma to the skull which caused brain damage and ultimately (Neff’s) demise.’”

In their request for a new trial in Circuit Court, Blackerby’s attorneys Erskine Mathis and Samuel Holmes claimed the court “erred in allowing the state to amend the indictment the week before trial” to remove references to “multiple blows” with the baseball bat leading to Neff’s death.

On the day Blackerby was sentenced, Bostick denied Blackerby’s request to delay the sentencing to allow him to apply for youthful offender status on the murder conviction. Blackerby’s attorneys based their argument for the sentencing delay on the indictment change.

Before Bostick denied the request to delay sentencing, he said the changes to the indictment only removed “surplusage,” and said it “did not affect the degree or fact of the crime.”

Mathis and Holmes also claimed the court violated Blackerby’s Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendment rights, and claimed the evidence in the case “indicated that the defendant should be sentenced at the low end of the sentencing range” rather than receive life in prison.