Extreme peer pressure caused 21-year-old James A. Keezer to join in the beating and stabbing of another man during a March 10 attack in North Lawrence, Keezer's attorney argued Tuesday in the opening statement of a trial.
"The evidence will be that he was acting under compulsion" from two co-defendants, defense attorney Jim George argued in Douglas County District Court.
Keezer, listed in court records as a transient, came to Lawrence from Emporia on March 9 along with four other acquaintances, some of whom were jumping bond on criminal cases, prosecutor Dave Zabel said. They got a room at the Jayhawk Motel, 1004 N. Third St., where early the next morning they robbed, beat, stomped and nearly killed Josh Greemore, a 21-year-old Mayetta man who had come from a neighboring motel room to drink beer with them.
That morning a passerby found Greemore wrapped in a blanket, bound with twine, and dumped in Riverfront Park.
George admitted Tuesday that Keezer stabbed Greemore before dumping him "but not with the intent to kill him." George argued that Keezer joined in the attack only out of fear that if he didn't, he would be hurt by two of the members of the group: the group's informal leader, Scott L. Staggs, 34, of Emporia, and Jeremy S. Harris, 25, of Guthrie, Okla.
Staggs, who spat, kicked and shouted threats during his sentencing this fall on kidnapping and robbery convictions, ruled the group "by fear and intimidation," George said. Harris, who police say told them he belonged to a white-separatist prison gang, was on par with Staggs, George said.
Staggs was ordered to serve 59 years in prison for his role in the attack. Harris received a 49-year sentence after pleading guilty to aggravated kidnapping.
Two co-defendants convicted of lesser roles, Sara M. Bruce and Leslie T. Howe, both of Emporia, are slated to testify during Keezer's trial. Bruce was sent to boot camp for six months, and Howe is serving a two-year prison sentence.