Archive for Wednesday, November 30, 1994


November 30, 1994


Rodney Barnes may face 68 to 77 months in prison for a February stabbing death.

A Douglas County jury deliberated 75 minutes this morning before finding Rodney W. Barnes guilty in the February stabbing death of a Missouri man.

The courtroom was silent as the court reporter read the jury's finding: guilty of second degree murder. Barnes, 28, showed no visible emotion and sat motionless at the defense table as the verdict was read.

After accepting the verdict, District Judge Ralph M. King Jr. scheduled Barnes' sentencing for Jan. 20. Under Kansas sentencing guidelines, he faces a possible prison term of 68 to 77 months.

The verdict means the jury believed the state's arguments that Barnes killed Curtis J. Thomas, 28, unintentionally but recklessly early Feb. 12. Evidence indicated that the Pierce City, Mo., man was stabbed once in the lower back as he scuffled with Barnes outside the Riverside Bar & Grill, 520 N. Third.

Thomas died about 30 minutes later after crashing his 1993 Ford Explorer into a house and garage at 502 Lincoln.

The defense contended Thomas accidentally fell onto the knife during the scuffle.

Barnes did not testify during the trial on his own behalf.

In his closing argument this morning, Assistant Dist. Atty. Frank Diehl pointed to Barnes' statement to police as key evidence in the case. In that statement, Barnes said he accidentally stabbed Thomas in the lower back.

"How did he know that?" Diehl asked about the location of the wound. "Because he did it. ... The person who would know is the person who was guilty of the crime. He was the only one who saw it."

Defense attorney David Berkowitz argued that the state had failed to prove either second-degree murder or the lesser, included offense of involuntary manslaughter.

He said prosecutors had shown only that Thomas' death was an "accidental killing during the scuffle between two intoxicated individuals, where one person slipped and fell against a knife held by another."

The last state's evidence the jury heard was a 10-minute, tape-recorded statement Barnes gave to police early July 1.

At the end of statement Barnes apologized to Thomas' family, stating he never intended to harm anyone.

"It just happened,'' he said.

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