Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2011

Douglas County jury acquits Lawrence man, 34, on kidnapping, robbery charges

September 22, 2011, 11:17 a.m. Updated September 22, 2011, 11:45 a.m.


A Douglas County jury Thursday morning acquitted a 34-year-old Lawrence man of charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery related to a March incident in east Lawrence.

Prosecutors had accused Leon Kimball of robbing and injuring a man and forcing another man into a car against his will. Kimball’s defense attorney Sarah Swain said prosecutors did not have evidence her client committed a crime.

“None of the witnesses the state called were able to tell a consistent story about what happened that night,” Swain said.

The defense contended Kimball had gone to an apartment complex in the 1400 block of Haskell Avenue the night of March 26 to support his cousin, Tasha Barnes, 34, of Lawrence, and her boyfriend at the time, Joshua Haynes, 22, because Barnes wanted to confront someone who was harassing her. Swain alleged two men ­­attacked Kimball and that her client defended himself, injuring one of the men but not robbing him of any money. She also said there was no evidence Kimball forced another man into a car.

“The state didn’t have that evidence, in my opinion, because it didn’t exist,” Swain said.

Haynes pleaded no contest to misdemeanor criminal restraint and criminal trespassing in April, and Barnes pleaded guilty to the same charges. Both were sentenced to probation.

“We knew there were inconsistencies in this case. However, given the co-defendants entered pleas in their cases and the serious nature of the injuries to at least one victim, we had to choose to either try the case or dismiss the case,” Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said. “We chose to let the jury decide the facts.”

Kimball faced more serious felony charges than his two co-defendants, and he could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison if convicted on both counts, Swain said.

District Judge Michael Malone on Thursday morning released Kimball from his bond, and he left the courthouse with family members. Swain said he was a musician and planned to return to Indianapolis to live with his family.

The trial started Monday, and jurors deliberated for one hour Wednesday and 20 minutes Thursday morning before reaching a verdict.


kimk 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow. The prosecutors in Douglas County didn't have any evidence? Nothing new there. It sure seems like Ms. Swain really knows what she's doing. I hope the prosecutors take this as a lesson that they shouldn't be trying to get their weak cases past smart Douglas County jurors.

Shelley Bock 6 years, 7 months ago

Sentencing is handled by the "sentencing grid". Based on past criminal history and the severity of the charge, judges have a specific number of months they can sentence the individual to serve. This was designed nearly 20 years ago to make sentencing more uniform across the state. Judges have very little ability to modify the sentence given.

ebyrdstarr 6 years, 7 months ago

I can't recall a lot of downward departures being granted. I can recall several maxed out sentences (Matthew Jaeger, Art Davis, that wife (Brown?)).

Which cases am I forgetting (other than the older Paula Martin case that was overturned on appeal). While I don't agree with your tone which seems to suggest that downward departures are bad and a sign that judges are "soft on crime" or on the side of criminals, you do seem to be disparaging Douglas County judges, so I would ask you to provide support, not just claims.

(For the record, I think 30 years for the facts as described in this article would have been excessive.)

Steve Jacob 6 years, 7 months ago

“None of the witnesses the state called were able to tell a consistent story about what happened that night,”

Hard to find anyone guilty if a jury can't trust the eye witnesses.

Linda Schwertfeger 6 years, 7 months ago

This trial really sounds like a waste of taxpayer money. I think the police and the prosecutors need to make sure they have some solid evidence before it gets this far.

John Spencer 6 years, 7 months ago

Looks to me like the CSI effect at work here. Without Video, blood samples and DNA tests, jurors now tend to acquit. “None of the witnesses the state called were able to tell a consistent story about what happened that night," It is more likely to have a group of people tell a different story of what happened, than for them to all have the same story. Reminds me of a college class that had a person come in the room, wield a gun, then a loud noise was made (elsewhere in the room) and then the person left the classroom. The prof had everyone immediately write down everything that happened, from their perspective. When the class started talking about what we saw just minutes after the event, some saw a man, others saw a woman. The color and type of clothing was all over the place. Some saw the person wearing a hat, others a mask, some people even swore they heard a shot.

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