Rev. Edward Fairley, a New Jersey Minister, is representing himself in a bizarre murder case where he stands accused of the attempted murder of his long-time mistress and fellow minister the Koinonia and Christian Ministries. Fairley, 59, is not denying that he viciously stabbed Simone Shields, 52, while she was getting her hair done. He is arguing to the jury that he should only be convicted of aggravated assault rather than attempted murder because he lacked premeditation.
This is a case that well supports the saying that “a man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer.” In a case turning on motive and state of mind, it is particularly useful to have a third person making the argument and examining witnesses. However, Fairley has insisted on self-representation.
He has a tough case and tough client to be sure. He essentially admitted to the stabbing in his opening statement and put his entire strategy on securing an aggravated assault conviction rather than attempted murder. However, the New Jersey law and jury instruction allows for a finding of attempted murder when the defendant is shown beyond a reasonable doubt to have:
(1) Purposely engaged in conduct which was intended to cause the death of the victim, if the attendant circumstances were as a reasonable person would believe them to be;
[Attempt-When Causing a Particular Result is an Element of the Crime]
(2) Did or omitted to do anything with the purpose of causing the death of the victim without further conduct on (his/her) part.
(3) Purposely did or omitted to do anything which, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, is an act or omission constituting a substantial step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in (his/her) causing the death of the victim.
That would seem to fit the facts as publicly reported. Fairley allegedly stalked Shields and said that “she has to die” before stabbing her 27 times in 2011. He called ahead to the home where she was having her hair done to confirm when she would be there.
While Rev. Fairley was married and ministering others on the biblically correct life, he had had an affair with his fellow minister for over 20 years. Neither seemed to view that as incompatible with their day jobs.
Fairley just walked into the home and proceeded without warning to stab Shields almost three dozen times in the face and chest. It is astonishing that she survived. He was later found still carrying the knife and covered in Shields’ blood down the street.
This is not the first violent assault for Fairley. Fifteen years ago, he was convicted of an attack on his wife. The former marine was a Baptist minister at the time and broke into his estranged wife’s apartment and . . . you guessed it . . . stabbed her. He served six years in prison.
It will be interesting to see if the prosecutors try to get the earlier conviction admitted as evidence of modus operandi or whether Fairley will put himself on the stand.