Witnesses called for defense cast doubt on identification

A witness to Christopher Kernich’s beating said initially she was standing on the lawn of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house the morning of Nov. 15 when she saw a white male with dirty blonde hair knock Kernich to the ground.

In defense witness Jacquelyne Slicker’s statement to police the day following the assault, which she read aloud in court, the criminal justice studies major still stated the attacker was white. But at Adrian Barker’s trial yesterday, the prosecution focused on her confusion when identifying the attacker.

The night of the attack, Slicker had already identified Ronald Kelly and Glen Jefferson Jr. as the suspects before Barker was brought out of a police car.

“That could be the guy,” Slicker said was her first thought when she saw Barker. When asked to look at all three mug shots placed on an easel, Slicker said she is unsure of her identification today.

“It happened so fast,” she said.

Portage County Prosecutor Tom Buchanan estimated she was standing approximately 75 feet away during the attack, and Slicker said she had one shot of vodka around midnight. She called 911 around 2:22 a.m. after witnessing the fight.

After the morning proceedings, which focused on Kernich’s autopsy, zoology major Danielle Contrada was the second witness called by the defense to testify about that night.

Contrada said she was on the front porch of the fraternity house when she saw a white male run up and punch Kernich in the back of the head.

When questioned on her certainty of the male’s race, Contrada said she was positive on the police report completed the following day.

At the department, Contrada was shown black-and-white pictures of the suspects. She positively identified Kelly.

But even though she initially said the other male was white, after seeing Jefferson’s color photo, she said she would never have identified him as a suspect.

She said she knew for a fact the male who dealt the punch had darker hair, not reddish hair. Contrada said she possibly misidentified the second person because it was late and she was tired and more focused on the victim.

The last two witnesses called to the stand testified about a party Barker attended prior to being arrested.

Emily Payne, who held the party at her house in Shaker Heights, said people started punching holes in the walls and ceiling of her attic.

Defense attorney Scott Michael Lear showed multiple photos of the damage done by the partiers.

During cross-examination, Payne said she never witnessed Barker punching any holes.

Dane Tuzon, who took the stand following Payne, said people began “horsing around” since the house was going to be condemned.

“We were pretending like we were ninjas, punching holes in the walls,” he said.

Tuzon said he saw Barker attempt to punch a hole in the wall, and curse in pain, holding his hand, when he hit a stud.

Throughout the night, Tuzon said Barker’s hand swelled. Later, Buchanan displayed a photo of Barker’s swollen hand taken after the Nov. 15 assault and asked Tuzon if it looked any different. He said the hand showed fresh blood and broken scabs.

But there was disagreement over the date of the party. Payne said it was two to three days before the assault on Kernich, while Tuzon said he was sure the party was held eight days before Barker’s arrest.

The defense will continue to call witnesses today as the trial continues at 8:30 a.m. in Judge John Enlow’s courtroom in Ravenna.

Contact public affairs reporters Kelly Byer at [email protected] and Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].