Jurors hear opening arguments in Kelly trial

The prosecution and the defense gave opening arguments today in Ronald Kelly’s trial, with the prosecution accusing Kelly of being a “common street thug,” and the defense claiming the accused is “not a monster.”

Jury selection was also finalized today, and witnesses will begin testifying Monday.

Kelly, is charged with the murder of Kent State student Christopher Kernich, heard both the prosecution and his defense attorney Greg Robey lay out their case in front of the all-white jury selected today to decide his innocence or guilt. Adrian Barker, who was also charged with murder in the case, was found guilty of murder and felonious murder on April 23.

“This is a case about a senseless killing,” Tom Buchanan, Portage County assistant prosecutor, said. “This is about the taking of a young man’s life for absolutely no reason.”

Buchanan described the demeanor in which Kelly and Barker allegedly assaulted Kernich Nov. 15, 2009.

“Adrian Barker sucker punched him, knocking him to the ground and as he lay there defenseless, motionless, Adrian Barker and this guy,” he said with a raised voice, pointing at Kelly, “Ronald Kelly began stomping Christopher Kernich in the head.”

He walked the jury through the alleged events of the night, and he described how Kernich and his friends were downtown relaxing after a week of classes before the assault. He said Kelly, a student at the University of Akron, was not visiting Kent to relax.

“(The evidence) will show he wasn’t a college student blowing off steam,” he said. “It was the act of a common street thug. He is a common street thug.”

Buchanan went on later to describe Kelly as a memorable person because of his dark skin, stocky build and bright red shirt.

“There isn’t a guy in two blocks that looks like Ron Kelly,” he said about the night of the incident.

Robey said the case against Kent Police had not sought out the truth in the case.

“This case is about trust, plain and simple,” Robey said.

He told the jury that there was trust between Kelly and his friends Barker and Jefferson that they wouldn’t “fly off the handle”  and get into a fight, and there was trust between them that Barker and Jefferson would tell the truth when it came to talking to police once the assault occurred.  Robey told the jury both of those trust had been broken.

He didn’t stop there as he described the broken trust between Kelly and the Kent Police Department when he said they “decided to build a case around him instead of seek the truth.”

Robey said that in order to help the jury see the whole truth; he would use smaller pictures to piece together the bigger picture. In the first picture, he said he would show the jury who Ronald Kelly is and show that he was a high school track and football star and without a criminal record.

“He’s not a monster,” he said looking at the prosecution and addressing the jury.

Robey described for the jury who Kelly was and how he got to Kent that Nov. night. He role-played for the jury a quick synopsis of the event and portrayed Kelly as telling Jefferson he wanted to go home once Jefferson stopped the car following the exchange of words with Kernich’s group of friends.

He said Kelly only fought with one of Kernich’s friends in an effort to protect himself from Kernich’s friend, whom Kelly is also charged with assaulting.

He told the jury they were tasked with evaluating Jefferson’s future testimony considering the number of lies he has told as well as the fact that Kent City Police didn’t arrest Jefferson until 10 days later or that his clothes weren’t treated in the same manner of inspection as Barker and Kelly’s had been.

He finished by reminding jurors it was their duty to determine the innocence of Kelly. Robey said it was also their duty to give Kelly a fair trial and pressed jurors earlier in the afternoon to promise Kelly just that.

“Now, can you look over there at Ron and look him in the eye. Can you tell him you will give him a fair trial? Can you tell him out loud,” Robey asked the jurors.

“We will give you a fair trial,” the jurors in unison looking at Kelly.

“Thank-you,” Kelly replied.