Closing arguments given in Adrian Barker’s retrial

Cassie Neiden

Closing arguments were heard Tuesday in the case against Adrian Barker, charged with killing Christopher Kernich in a street fight Nov. 15, 2009.

Last year, Judge John Enlow’s Court of Common Pleas overturned Barker’s murder conviction, citing improper jury instructions that should have included the choice to convict Barker on lesser offenses, according to the criminal appeal by the Ohio 11th District. The trial proceedings began Sept. 3.

Portage County Prosecutor Connie Lewandowski approached the jury Tuesday morning and said Barker “turned his back on humankind” by killing Kernich. Lewandowski said Barker’s behavior was reckless and excessive. She described the street fight as “a whole lot of something about a whole lot of nothing.”

Lewandowski said Barker’s acts were out of purposeful conduct, and he was caught up in the glamour of evil that night.

Lewandowski presented evidence from the trial, arguing that witnesses testified they saw Barker, not Glenn Jefferson, charged with obstructing justice, sprint 15 yards over to Kernich and punch him on the side of the head.

“Including defense witnesses,” she said, slamming her right hand onto the table beside her.

Lewandowski argued when Barker licked his thumb and smeared his shoes in the booking room, he “couldn’t get [the blood] off fast enough.”

She presented a blown-up photo of Barker’s hand, which was swollen and bloody. During final rebuttal, Portage County Prosecutor Thomas Buchanan said that although Barker may have punched a wall a week before the incident as the defense argues, eight days later his hand could not possibly still be swollen.

Lewandowski also said that Kernich’s DNA and blood were found on Barker’s shirt and shoes.

Defense Attorney John Lewis approached the jury, arguing that there are too many inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies to deliver a guilty verdict on “the most serious of offenses.”

Lewis described Jefferson as the “pink elephant” in the room, saying Jefferson lied to a grand jury, was not detained on the night of the incident and between the night of the incident and the day he was questioned, had changed his hair and laundered the shirt he was wearing.

Jefferson testified he thought he may have punched Bradley Chelko, who was alongside Kernich that evening, but it was Chelko’s blood that was found on Barker’s shirt, Lewis said. He also argued that whomever Jefferson did punch was never positively identified during proceedings.

Lewis said there were witnesses who initially reported seeing a white male punch Kernich and run off, and Ronald Kelly, found guilty of murder and felonious assault, walked up to him and kicked him.

Lewis said he didn’t hear any evidence that Barker wanted to stop the car and he, Jefferson and Kelly were riding in because he had rage. He said there was no planned murder or vendetta that evening, but kids got out of a car and got into a fight.

Lewis also argued prosecutors and detectives met with some of the witnesses six to 10 times each to gather accounts of what took place. Lewis questioned why they were required to meet so many times for a two-minute incident.

“If you believe the Kent Police Department cooked witnesses, then there’s nothing I can say. But that’s impossible,” Buchanan said during the prosecution’s final rebuttal.

Jury deliberations began Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Kernich, a Kent State student, died six days after the altercation having suffered traumatic head injuries. Portage County prosecutors argued Barker punched Kernich in the head, knocking him unconscious and proceeded to kick and stomp his head and body multiple times.

Kelly was a student at the University of Akron and Jefferson from Mentor.

Contact Cassie Neiden at [email protected]