The prosecution and defense gave their closing statements to the jury today in the case of Adrian Barker and his involvement in the death of Kent State student Christopher Kernich last November.
Connie Lewandowski, Portage County assistant prosecutor, spoke first in the closing statements. She began by describing the demeanor behind which Adrian Barker took the life of Christopher Kernich.
“This man took him away in such a ruthless and brutal way,” Lewandowski said. “You have seen the choices Adrian Barker has made and what those choices have cost.”
Lewandowski continued her statements by reviewing the compelling points brought up during each of the state’s witnesses. Specifically she mentioned Thomas Coleman, a Kent State student, who said Kernich’s head was like a bowling ball when he hit the ground.
Lewandowski reminded the jury of Tyler Martin’s testimony in which he spoke about the moment after Christopher Kernich was struck from behind and falling to the ground. In that moment Martin said he locked eyes with Kernich and said, “It was like he was dead.”
Martin’s previous testimony also included an account of Barker celebrating after Kernich was down, telling the crowd, “I’ll kill you just like I killed him.”
The prosecution retold Megan Prescott’s eyewitness account of how Kernich seemed like he didn’t want to fight.
“He dropped his hands down and that’s when Barker came from behind like the coward he was,” Lewandowski said recounting Prescott’s testimony.
Tom Buchanan, Portage County assistant prosecutor, said the victim, Christopher Kernich, was the best witness for the case. Buchanan said Kernich marked the attacker with his blood when DNA experts said it was Kernich’s blood on Barker’s shirt and shoes.
Buchanan also said Barker marked himself as the attacker when he punched Kernich in the head, leaving a swollen hand.
The prosecution emphasized how purposeful Barker’s actions were that night, and urged the jury to return a verdict of guilty on all charges.
Defense attorney Scott Michael Lear began his closing statement by reminding the jury their role in maintaining a just and fair democracy. He stressed his belief that the Kent Police Department’s biggest mistake was latching onto a theory, which therefore caused witnesses to change their original testimonies in order to correspond with the prosecution.
“I don’t anticipate that they were coming in here and lying,” Lear said of the witnesses. “I think they honestly believe now that theory they were fed was true.”
Lear then reminded the jury that the steps the police department took immediately following the incident are mistakes that led to the misidentification of Adrian Barker. He noted the police’s use of the “show-up” method for witnesses to identity the attackers.
He quoted Dr. Soloman Fulero, an earlier witness called by the defense, as saying that a witness’s account of shocking events are susceptible to contamination due to the circumstances.
“They weren’t expecting something like this to happen,” Lear said. “So are they susceptible to contamination? Make no mistake, part of that contamination is from the Kent Police Department.”
Lear then retold the accounts of Glen Jefferson, Jr.’s involvement in the case and how he was sent home that night in November without giving any statement or having any questioning by the police, despite the fact that three of the nine eyewitnesses claimed Jefferson was directly involved in the attack on Kernich.
Lear also brought to light how Jefferson shaved his head after the incident but before his police interview on Nov. 17, something Lear said differentiated his appearance from the night in question.
The defense retold the exchange between Detective DiJerome during his video interview with Carl Belfiore, Kent State student and witness, from which Lear said, “When you can listen to an interview and you can see the theory by the questions asked. You can tell, one, he is locked in.”
To emphasize the doubt in Barker’s identification, Lear said of the nine written statements from Nov. 15, three sited Jefferson as the attacker and two more claimed it was a man in a white shirt but couldn’t further identity the attacker between Barker and Jefferson.
Lear ended his closing statements by urging the jury to remember that they cannot rely on the evidence presented by the prosecution and therefore should deliberate a verdict of not guilty for Adrian Barker.
Jurors stepped out of the courtroom at noon for an hour break before beginning deliberations.