Trial ends with hung jury
A hung jury was the outcome for a Greencastle defendant who failed to show up for his own trial.
Kent Jermaine Jackson, 32, was tried in Putnam Circuit Court Wednesday on charges of battery and battery resulting in serious bodily injury. Police accused him of beating acquaintance Robert Coffey with a 9-iron golf club in the early morning hours of June 8, 2005.
Only a few scattered seats were occupied during the court proceedings Wednesday. However, the most notably empty chair was Jackson's.
Police, as well as defense attorney Jim Holder, told the court they have been unable to locate Jackson. A warrant is currently out for his arrest after new battery charges were filed following a domestic violence incident Friday.
"I ask that you not hold it against the defense or the State of Indiana that he is not here," Judge Matthew Headley told potential jurors before the start of the trial. A reason was not given to the jury for Jackson's absence.
Holder told the BannerGraphic he asked to have his client's trial postponed twice before the proceedings and then once again for court record as the trial began.
The judge told him Jackson had known about his court date and that the justice process would continue without him.
Whether Jackson's absence affected the jury's ability to come to a consensus remains to be seen. However, after more than four hours of deliberations, the four men and eight women were unable to decide a clear verdict for Jackson.
Judge Headley declared a mistrial, which will allow the State to retry the case.
Prosecuting attorney Timothy Bookwalter said he will ask for another trial.
"The evidence is clear," Bookwalter said. "I am convinced we will get a conviction."
Holder said he looked at the verdict as a victory.
"I am pleased, and I feel it went very well," he said. "A defense attorney considers a hung jury to be a win."
Holder, who was appointed by the court to be Jackson's attorney, also said he plans to file a motion to withdraw himself as his legal counsel.
Without having interviewed any jurors yet, Prosecutor Bookwalter said Wednesday evening he couldn't tell exactly why the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision.
Jurors had listened to nearly six hours of witness testimony and arguments from the two attorneys before breaking to deliberate at 4:20 p.m.
The prosecution's evidence included testimony from two eyewitnesses and the alleged victim as well as from two Greencastle police officers, a Putnam County Deputy and Greencastle Det. Randy Seipel.
Seipel's testimony was probably the most involved of the day.
The detective produced pictures of the crime scene, several of which included what he described as a "trail of blood" beginning at the scene of the attack and leading out Jackson's front step, onto the sidewalk and then to a vehicle parked outside.
During Seipel's cross examination by Holder, the defense attorney attempted to refute previous testimony by eyewitness Daniel Hagan, who told the court Jackson had dragged Robert Coffey by the hair after striking him twice in the head with the 9-iron.
Shot by shot, Holder took the detective through his pictures, pointing out how the blood droplets were round in each of the pictures.
"How can it be possible to drag someone and the blood not get smeared?" Holder asked.
"It depends on how they were dragged," Seipel replied. "It could have been dripping off of the face or hands."
The debate brought the two men to the center of the courtroom floor, with Seipel laying on his side and Holder pretending to pull him by his hair.
Witnesses at the trial testified Coffey, who was age 30 at the time, and Jackson were involved in a verbal altercation at the Castlebury Estates apartment building earlier in the evening of June 7. After the argument, witnesses said the two had apparently resolved the disagreement and were friendly. From the apartment building, they said Jackson and Coffey, along with a friend, Corey Duff, picked up Hagan from the grocery store where he had purchased a 12-pack of beer. They then proceeded to Jackson's home at 208 W. Walnut St.
During the trip to Jackson's residence, the witnesses said he sped excessively, blowing through stop signs and red lights.
Once at the home, the four men stood outside and talked for 15-30 minutes, when Coffey and Jackson went into the house together. Hagan and Duff both testified after about 15 minutes the two became suspicious and knocked on the door to be let in. After about five minutes, they both said, Jackson invited them into the house and, and they had a seat on the couch.
It was at that time the Hagan and Duff said they saw Jackson strike Coffey twice with the golf club, once in the forehead and once in the face. They both reported the atmosphere in the room was calm when the blows were struck and that Coffey never saw it coming.
Coffey, testified that he can't remember anything from shortly before he was injured to about three days later when he woke up in an Indianapolis hospital. He said he has sustained loss of vision in his left eye and has had severe sinus, tooth and migraine pain.
Pictures of Coffey after the incident, which were admitted as evidence, showed gashes above his left eye and a gash in his left cheek, where blood had pushed through the skin after the collapse of his cheek bone.
Bookwalter attempted to show Coffey had no defensive wounds and was caught completely off guard when attacked.
"It was like he was trying to hit a home run," Duff said of the strikes to Coffey's head.
Neither Hagan, Duff, or Coffey were able to disclose the topic of either the argument or any other conversation the men had engaged in that day.
Aside from cross examination of the prosecution's witnesses, the defense produced no additional evidence.
In his closing arguments, Holder contended that the weapon was never fingerprinted and cited claims Jackson had made during police interviews that alluded another suspect, a friend from Indianapolis, had attacked Coffey.