A Douglas County jury on Friday acquitted a 44-year-old Lawrence man who was accused of setting his ex-girlfriend’s mobile home on fire last summer.
Trevor Toussaint had spent most of Thursday on the stand disputing testimony of Kimberly Berry, his former girlfriend, about events leading up to the fire. He had also said he was several miles away from the mobile home when it caught fire on June 10, 2008.
Even though it’s not required for a defendant to testify, Toussaint’s attorney said it can often be helpful in a case that is based on mostly circumstantial evidence.
“I thought his testimony was helpful,” defense attorney Charles Whitman said.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour Thursday and for more than four hours Friday before finding Toussaint not guilty of arson and burglary charges.
Prosecutors had accused him of breaking into Berry’s home and setting the fire out of revenge when Berry began to see another man.
Fire investigators have ruled the blaze was set intentionally after gasoline was poured onto Berry’s bed and in the hallway, and then ignited.
But Whitman had argued that investigators focused on Toussaint too quickly because Berry immediately accused him in the case.
After the verdict, two jurors said they did not believe prosecutor Eve Kemple, an assistant Douglas County district attorney, was given enough evidence to convince them beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Toussaint.
Much of the testimony in the trial that began on Monday centered around the couple’s on-again, off-again relationship.
The acquittal does not mean the legal troubles end for Toussaint, an immigrant from Grenada.
He faces misdemeanor charges in Douglas County in five other cases. In several of them, he is accused of violating a judge’s protective order on Berry. District Judge Paula Martin in court Friday also said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had asked local authorities to hold him in custody.
Prosecutors have said Toussaint is at risk of being deported because of his criminal history here and in another state.
In Douglas County, the arson count was the most serious charge he faced.