10/05/12 — Lawyer asks to stop burial

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Lawyer asks to stop burial

By John Joyce
Published in News on October 5, 2012 1:46 PM

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Jerome Butts is seen in Wayne County Superior Court on Thursday. Butts is one of four men charged in the murder of Kennedy McLaurin.

The family of murder victim Kennedy McLaurin will have to wait until at least February to be able to bury him after a defense lawyer for one of the young men charged in connection with the teen's murder argued that the body is itself evidence in the trial.

"I hate to have to wait this long, but I can wait if it means justice," said Kimberly Best, McLaurin's mother.

Defense attorney Phoebe Dee, counsel for one of the four men charged with McLaurin's murder, filed two motions Thursday to preserve evidence, which would prevent the state Medical Examiner's Office from releasing the body to the family, even after it is positively identified as McLaurin.

"I'm not calling anything evidence or not evidence at this point, because none of us know," Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones said before making his ruling.

Ms. Dee, who is representing 17-year-old Jerome Butts, asked that the medical examiner and law enforcement agencies be required to maintain all physical evidence until such time that both the defense and prosecution have a chance to review it.

Prosecuting District Attorney Branny Vickory said the identification process is still incomplete pending DNA analysis. That could take at least two months.

Vickory said in court that the medical examiner's office has indicated to him that, even after the identification is complete, a final written report will not be available until February.

"The case is getting priority now," said Vickory, explaining that he has asked that a rush be put on all testing by the medical examiner and the State Bureau of Investigation, which is assisting with analysis.

McLaurin's family was in the courtroom as the matter was hashed out between the legal teams. Ms. Best and Kennedy's grandmother, Janice Best Robinson, consoled each other during the hearing.

"She's been going through some turmoil, she hasn't been resting all that well," said Ms. Best of her mother.

Jones ruled that, because he didn't want to set an arbitrary date, that the medical examiner's office hold onto the remains, which they could legally release to the family after the identification process is complete, until at least such time as the final written report is completed.

Once the identification is confirmed and the testing done, Jones will make a determination as to whether or not McLaurin's remains can be released.

"I think it was very presumptuous of the defense, but I appreciate the judge for being cautious. We don't want any loopholes," Ms. Best said.