Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr. Murder Trial Underway

The eight men and six women who will decide whether or not Kwan Kearney is guilty of killing Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr. heard their first overview of the case Monday afternoon.

Joseph Alonzo Sharps, a 17-year-old Spingarn High junior, honor student, varsity athlete, was killed “for nothing,” Prosecutor David Saybolt told jurors in his opening statement.

He was killed because he was walking down the street in Trinidad,” Saybolt said. “He was killed because he was walking down the street with his hands in his pockets.”

Kearney’s attorney, Gene Johnson, declined to make an opening statement. Johnson told the court earlier in the day, before jury selection, that Kearney didn’t commit the crime. “Someone else did,” Johnson said.

Kearney is charged with first-degree murder while armed in Sharps’ death last November. He is also charged with assault with intent to kill and aggravated assault on a second victim who survived, and various weapons charges related to the double shooting.

Saybolt told jurors the witnesses they’ll hear from are those who were at the scene that night, including Larnell Allen, a friend of Kearney’s who was also charged in connection with the case. Allen has pleaded guilty, Saybolt said. Another person with them, a 14-year-old, also has an agreement with the government and is expected to testify, Saybolt said.

Describing the shooting for jurors, Saybolt said Kearney and Allen bumped into Sharps and Sharps’ friend, argued with them briefly, then, after the two groups passed on another, Kearney called out to Sharps “are you reaching?” Sharps said he was not, then the gunshots rang out. Sharps and his friend were struck. His friend, also a 17-year-old junior at Spingarn High, survived.

In a twist of “small town” fate, Sharps’ friend and Allen were first cousins who hadn’t seen each other in years, Saybolt said.

Attorneys expect the trial to last about a week.

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