Eric Jason Lively was sentenced today to 15 years to life in state prison for the murder of his long-time enemy and neighbor Jesse Earl Simpson.

Judge Christopher Wilson sentenced Lively, 46, after denying a defense motion for new trial based on juror misconduct and ineffectiveness of counsel. Defense attorney Russ Clanton was ill during the trial, which ended Feb. 1 with a conviction of second-degree murder.

The courtroom was packed this morning with Simpson’s friends and family members, some of whom clapped and cheered loudly when the judge denied the motion for new trial. They were silenced by the bailiffs, and Wilson told them “that doesn’t happen here.”


Simpson died on May 3, 2017, shortly after Lively’s pickup truck struck him at an intersection in Shelter Cove. During the trial Lively testified that Simpson, carrying a running weed-whacker, jumped in front of his truck. But several witnesses said Lively had been talking freely about killing Simpson. And after the trial, some jurors pointed out that Lively had the option of turning around and driving the other way.

Lively believed Simpson and other neighbors were “tweakers” who were stealing everything from cash and marijuana to steaks and lightbulbs from his Shelter Cove home. He also thought his ex-girlfriend was having sex with a number of men, Simpson included.

“It’s a tragedy all the way around,” Wilson told the courtroom audience this morning. “The victim will live on with his family members and friends … Remember those things that are positive.”

The judge said he also empathizes with Lively.

“There’s really no salve for an incident like this,” Wilson said.

Lively stood with head down and hands clasped, saying only “Yes” when asked if he understood his right to appeal. None of Simpson’s supporters spoke during the sentencing. But Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada, who prosecuted Lively, told Wilson that Simpson’s brother Thomas Simpson wanted the judge to know “how (the murder) has affected his life and his girlfriend’s life as well.”

Clanton filed the motion for new trial based on two factors: juror misconduct and ineffectiveness of counsel. One of the jurors was a doctor, and Clanton said other jurors asked him questions and may have been influenced.

But Kamada said the doctor, “who the defense left on the jury,” simply agreed with the testimony of the pathologist who performed Simpson’s autopsy. And the defense did not dispute the pathologist’s opinion.

As to Clanton being ineffective during trial because of illness, Kamada said Clanton had a “slight cough” and the issue was never raised during trial.

Wilson found no juror misconduct, saying a juror “doesn’t leave their experience at the door.” The jury discussion in question was pathologist Mark Super’s testimony that after being hit by the truck, Simpson would  have been unable to get up or communicate.

Lively told law enforcement Simpson managed to walk across the street and said he wanted to go home.

Lively recanted that at trial, saying he’d been confused.

Regarding Clanton’s health, Wilson said Clanton “was ill during the trial,” and he would have been accommodated if that had been brought up.

Clanton was well-prepared and “launched a vigorous and zealous defense,” as he is sworn to do, the judge said. “He did an admirable job of defending his client.”

Lively was given credit for 329 days served in Humboldt County Correctional Facility.

Since his arrest, his three older children have been adopted by their aunt in Arizona.  His youngest child is with the ex-girlfriend who Lively accused of having sex with Simpson and many others. Someone burned down Lively’s house in Shelter Cove.