The arguments were one sided today in Carlos Kennedy’s second capital murder trial, as the man who appealed his own death sentence in order to represent himself had little to say.
Kennedy was arrested and charged with raping and killing 69-year old Zoa White with a clawhammer after breaking into her Springhill Avenue home in June 2010 — a capital offense that resulted in his death penalty conviction just three years ago.However, that verdict was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court last July. Based on the ruling, Kennedy — who had requested to defend himself — was denied a constitutional right when he was forced to be represented by a court-appointed attorney.
In the first trial, Mobile’s Jason Darley was assigned as Kennedy’s standby counsel but was promoted to primary counsel after former Circuit Court Judge Rusty Johnston deemed Kennedy unfit to act as his own lawyer.
Despite the verdict being overturned, there was — and is — substantial physical evidence against Kennedy including matching blood samples, fingerprints and palmprints all discovered at the scene of White’s murder.
Kennedy wore dress pants and a shirt and spoke with a cordial tone to Presiding Judge Charles Graddick and retired prosecutor Jo Beth Murphree, who successfully prosecuted his first trial and returned from retirement specifically to try Kennedy again.
When asked questions, Kennedy would give answers and provided some input into what exhibits would be submitted as evidence in the absence of the jury. However, Tuesday morning, he did not cross-examine the state’s witnesses, which included White’s daughter Laurie Miller and grandson Landon Miller.
At the age of 13, Landon initially discovered the broken window at his grandmother’s house that led police to the scene of her murder. As the witnesses went through their recollections of that day, Kennedy sat in silence, declining to ask any follow-up questions.
He also passed up the opportunity to cross-examine MPD crime scene investigator Jason Bullock, who walked the jury through much of the physical evidence against him. Due to a scheduling error, Bullock was the last witness called to the stand on Tuesday afternoon.
Leaving the courtroom after reliving the gruesome crime scene for the second time in three years, Miller said she still doesn’t understand why she and her family have been put back in this situation.
“They said he didn’t get to defend himself the first time, but it doesn’t appear he’s trying to defend himself today,” Miller said. “He had his chance, and he hasn’t had any questions or offered any suggestion as to why we’re here again to do this all over. Nobody wants to do this the first time, let alone again.”
White said Kennedy’s silence gives the appearance he’s just wasting time.
Despite Kennedy’s silence, his standby counsel Darley said it’s obvious his client is competent, though he did describe Tuesday’s proceedings as “different.”
“He’s not made any comments yet, but there’s still a lot of the trial left. So, it remains to be seen how it will develop,” Darley added. “You can tell he understands what’s going on. He’s communicating with the judge and he’s taking notes.”
“This is, I guess, what Carlos had requested the first time around — to be able to represent himself. I’m only in this case if he needs me.”
Whether Kennedy has plans to offer a defense before the end of the trial is still unclear. He’s being kept in police custody, so he wasn’t able to comment after the courtroom was dismissed this afternoon.
Either way, Miller said trying to get justice for her mother’s murder for a second time has been “tough” on her as well as her family members.
“We’re ready for it to get over with, to get justice and move on,” she added.
Kennedy’s second trial for capital murder will continue at 10 a.m. on April 27.