The state rests
By John Joyce
Published in News on March 26, 2014 1:46 PM
Pathology expert Dr. Lauren Scott, who conducted the autopsy on Kennedy McLaurin, describes her findings to the court on Tuesday. She noted severe fracturing and a gouge mark on the skull, facial fracturing and fire injury as well as two gunshot wounds.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge speaks with Kennedy McLaurin's mother, Kimberly Best, during Tuesday's court proceedings.
A photograph of a smiling Kennedy McLaurin Jr. was the last thing a Wayne County jury saw Tuesday before the state rested its case against one of the men charged with murder in connection with the 16-year-old's Sept. 9, 2012, death.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge's announcement came after a marathon prosecution -- one that saw 18 witnesses take the stand and nearly 400 items entered into evidence.
Defense Attorney Charles Gurley, the man representing Leonard Eugene Joyner in what he characterized as a "self-defense" case, was expected to begin his defense this morning.
Delbridge finished out the state's case with three final witnesses.
The jury heard from the victim's father, Kennedy McLaurin Sr., and Associate Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lauren Scott, the woman who performed the autopsy on the teenager's remains.
Dr. Scott testified that McLaurin suffered two gunshot wounds to the chest and that she noted several fractures, divots and a gouge mark consistent with blunt force trauma to the face and skull.
And although much of the body had decomposed by the time the autopsy was conducted, she testified she had enough to work with to pinpoint the path of each bullet, and to form the expert opinion that the victim was alive when each of them entered his body.
Dr. Scott also told the court about an item she found loose in the body bag -- an item McLaurin Sr. later identified as a key chain he bought for his son from Lowe's Home Improvement that "Ken" was wearing the day he died.
During cross-examination, Gurley went on the offensive, questioning the medical examiner, whom he called "Ms. Scott," until she corrected him -- "Dr. Scott," she said -- about the nature of the gunshot wounds.
"How many pints of blood are in the human body," he asked.
Dr. Scott answered in liters, prompting Gurley to do some fast math converting liters to pints -- and then ounces -- for the jury.
He then placed five cartons of heavy cream on the witness stand in front of Dr. Scott to illustrate the amount.
She had testified previously that McLaurin, who was shot through the aorta, could have lived anywhere from a few minutes to as long as an hour after his heart was punctured.
Gurley wasn't convinced.
Once the state rested, Gurley filed a motion to dismiss all charges -- noting that, in his words, the state had provided "not one scintilla of evidence" that his client had committed either a felony or a murder.
He said it was the victim who was the aggressor in the case because he pulled the gun and tried to rob the others.
"The whole case should be dismissed at this point based on the evidence you heard in this courtroom," Gurley said.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones reviewed his notes for several minutes -- reading through testimony and often highlighting whole portions of text with a green highlighter.
He then heard from the state.
"When Leonard Joyner made that phone call to Kevin (Smith) and told him to get the shovel, it was preordained that that young man was going to die," Delbridge said.
Jones ultimately denied the motion, saying that while there were "inconsistencies" in the testimonies of Ethridge, Smith and Butts, the law says to consider motions made by the defense to dismiss in a light most favorable to the state.