Barker found guilty

Anthony Holloway

Jury convicts Barker in murder of Kernich.

Adrian Barker, a 22-year-old University of Akron student, was found guilty of murder and felonious murder (death resulting from felonious assault) of Kent State student Christopher Kernich by a Portage County jury last Friday afternoon.

Barker was also found guilty of felonious assault and tampering with evidence. He was found not guilty of the assault to Kernich’s friend Chris Pataky. The sentencing date is still pending.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci made an appearance for the reading of the verdict.

“Justice was served,” Vigluicci said outside the courtroom.

He said the recommended sentencing would be no less than what is required by law, which is 15 years to life.


After two and half hours of deliberation, jurors brought their final decision into the courtroom as the family members of both Barker and Kernich held their breath.

The silence of the courtroom was immediately broken as Judge John Enlow read the jury’s verdict, finding Barker guilty of murder, leaving Barb Barker, Adrian’s mother, inconsolable and distraught with emotion.

“Don’t take my baby away,” she cried as sheriff deputies escorted Barker out of the courtroom. “God, no, please. Don’t let them take my son away.”

Other supporters of Adrian called out to him as he was escorted from the courtroom.

“There is another step,” one woman yelled. “We’re behind you all the way, Adrian.”

Adrian’s brother, Sean Barker, said his brother’s legal fight is far from over.

“Adrian is a valuable member of the Shaker Heights community,” he said. “Anyone who ever knew Adrian knew he wouldn’t have done it. We’re going to push for an appeal.”

The Kernich family and friends left the courtroom first and headed to East Main Street, the location where Kernich was assaulted. They placed flowers on the grass strip where friends took him after he was attacked. They circled around the flowers, holding hands, saying a prayer and smiling.

The incident

The verdict came nearly five months to the day when Christopher Kernich and his friends were walking home in the early hours of Nov. 15, 2009. At 2 a.m., Barker, Barker’s high school friend Ronald Kelly and Kelly’s roommate, Glen Jefferson Jr., were leaving Phi Sigma Kappa next to Firestone, when Kernich and friends began to leave Euro Gyro.

After pulling out of the Firestone parking lot and nearly hitting Kernich’s group, Jefferson pulled down East Main Street toward campus and into the Jack Kohls Money Penny driveway. Kernich and his friends crossed the street and passed behind Jefferson’s white Honda Civic.

At 2:24 a.m., Kernich laid on the ground, unconscious and beaten, while friends dragged him off the street and into the grass. Police detained Barker and Kelly after arriving on the scene and had Jefferson talk to an officer before allowing him to leave.

Tom Buchanan, Portage County assistant prosecutor, said the victim, Christopher Kernich, was the best witness for the prosecution’s 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. ??

Assistant Prosecutor Connie ?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 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.

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 said to the jury that the steps the police department took immediately following the incident were mistakes that led to the misidentification of Adrian Barker. He noted the police’s use of the “show-up” method for witnesses to identify the attackers. ??He quoted Dr. Solomon Fulero, an earlier witness called by the defense, as saying that a witness’s account of shocking events is 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 Jefferson’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 he said differentiated his appearance from the night in question.

Lear told the jury that despite the prosecution learning that Jefferson kicked Kernich, they never deviated from the theory they had from the beginning of the investigation.

The defense retold the exchange between Detective Mark 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 listed Jefferson as the attacker and two more claimed it was a man in a white shirt but couldn’t further identify 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.

“He’s the man that should be charged with murder,” he said of Jefferson.

Contact public affairs reporter Anthony Holloway at [email protected].