Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Trial date set in Kelsey Smith slaying case

August 16, 2007

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— A judge on Wednesday set a trial date for the man accused of kidnapping, raping and strangling an 18-year-old woman, whose apparent abduction from a Target store parking lot was captured on videotape.

Johnson County District Judge Peter Ruddick set Edwin R. Hall's capital murder trial for Jan. 14. Ruddick also heard arguments from both sides about how DNA evidence in the case should be provided to the defense.

Hall, 26, Olathe, is charged with capital murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated sodomy in the slaying of Kelsey Smith, of Overland Park. He has pleaded not guilty.

Hall is accused of abducting Smith on June 2 from the Target parking lot in suburban Kansas City. Grainy surveillance video from the store appeared to show Smith being confronted and pushed into her car.

Her body was found four days later in a park about 20 miles away in Missouri. Hall was interviewed and arrested June 6, after he saw himself on television in surveillance video and contacted a lawyer, who contacted police.

At the hearing Wednesday, one of Hall's lawyers, Paul Cramm, said defense experts would need to view the DNA that had been collected and processed by the state in an "unlocked" electronic format. That would give defense experts "the freedom to analyze the material," Cramm said.

"Particularly now, where there's a request with the death penalty on the table, I cannot imagine not having the evidence in the same format as the state, even with far less jeopardy at stake," Cramm said.

But Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline argued the unlocked format was unnecessary.

"The science of DNA is firmly based on credibility and accreditation of laboratory protocol established through validation testing. If you alter those protocols, you eliminate the science," Kline said.

But Ruddick ordered prosecutors to turn over to the defense in an unlocked format any DNA that was destroyed or significantly reduced in testing. DNA analyses that were not destroyed in testing would be provided in the locked format, but the defense would have access to that DNA for its own testing.

Cramm has also requested that prosecutors provide the defense with all copies of files on Hall maintained by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services.

Hall was convicted of threatening his adoptive sister at knifepoint when he was 15. A judge convicted Hall after he pleaded no contest to aggravated assault in May 1996 and removed him from his adoptive home. Hall was then placed in state custody.

Hall was confined in four facilities from 1996 until his release in 1999, according to the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority.

Hall, who had until Wednesday appeared in court in prison clothes, wore a gray suit and tie and was joined in court by his wife, Aletha Hall, who sat behind him. The Halls had lived in Olathe, with their 4-year-old son.

It's unclear where Aletha Hall has been living since her husband's arrest. A gag order has prevented lawyers and others involved from discussing the case with the media.

Smith's family also attended the hearing but did not comment.

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