A Ruling On Rage

Shirley Henson Argues She Acted In Self Defense

Around Birmingham, Ala., everyone talked about Shirley Henson and the road rage murder case. It was the stuff of radio talk shows.

"That woman needs to be convicted," one radio caller opined.

"This lady should have stayed in the car," said another.

"You come up to my window in a threatening manner, I'm going to take you out," offered a caller.

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At the trial, the prosecutors argued that Henson shot Gena Foster in a road rage confrontation that escalated to murder.

But defendant Shirley Henson, a suburban mother never in trouble before, maintained that she was afraid, but not angry. She says she was only acting in self defense.

"I didn't want to fire my gun," Henson said. "I didn't mean to fire my gun."

The replay of Henson's 911 call reporting the incident was so upsetting, family members left the court sobbing, according to a reporter.

"She's a murderer," declared the victim's sister, Kimberly Pedigo.

"She took my daughter and killed her," said Pat Newell, Foster's mother amid sobs. "And hearing what I've heard....Now I know how she died, and I almost know when she died. I was there at that moment today."

The trial lasted five days. The jury reached a verdict in just four hours: guilty - not of murder but of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The verdict was appropriate under the circumstances, the district attorney concluded. "The jury felt like murder should be reduced to manslaughter because of the heat of passion that occurred," he said.

For Foster's family, justice was served. "She was held accountable. That's all I wanted," Pedigo said.

Henson will be sentenced next monh. She could face up to 20 years in prison.

"I hope that people will understand what was in my head. That it was fear and panic, not anger," Henson said, adding that it was not rage.

Can Foster's family now forgive Shirley Henson?

"I don't forgive her," mother Newell said.

"I'll wait and see. Today's not the day," said Pedigo.

At the cemetery, Foster's former husband instructed their children about keeping alive the memory of the mother they lost: "Let her know we love her and we always think about her."

"I don't know what the message is," a grieving Newell said. "The world is so full of anger and frustration. Sometimes you feel lucky to get home."

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