Man accused in Cousette’s killing claiming self defense

The man facing capital murder charges in the 2019 death of Tuscaloosa Police Officer Dornell Cousette is claiming he acted in self defense.

Luther Watkins Jr.’s attorney Jim Standridge filed a motion Friday, requesting a pretrial hearing. The motion is the first mention of Cousette being the aggressor in the event, and Watkins is claiming Cousette shot him twice before Watkins returned fire.

Tuscaloosa Attorney Joel Sogol said a self-defense claim can be complicated to prove.

“You cannot be the aggressor,” Sogol said. “In other words, if there is a situation and you are aggressive to someone else, you’re not going to get self defense.”

Cousette was fatally shot Sept. 16, 2019, while he was serving a warrant on Watkins at a home in West Tuscaloosa.

“There are two different ways you can raise the (self defense) issue,” Sogol said. “One is by pretrial motion, which is what Jim Standridge has done. He has asked for a pretrial hearing on issue of self defense. At that hearing the judge may or may not find self defense. If he finds self defense that’s the end of the case.”

Sogol said if the judge does not find self defense, it can still be raised at trial. If jurors believe the self-defense argument, they can find a defendant not guilty. Watkins’ case is expected to go to trial later this year.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Watkins.

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