Jury Deliberations Begin Thursday in Kwan Kearney and Jeremy Risper Trial

Jurors in the cases against Kwan Kearney and Jeremy Risper are expected to begin deliberating on the charges Thursday morning.

Prosecutors Michael Ortwein and David Sayboldt asked the jury to find the men guilty of killing Jamal Wilson, saying that Kearney and Risper were equal participants in a chase and shootout that left the 19-year-old dead.

But Kearney’s and Risper’s defense attorneys argued that that description of events—a chase and a shootout—was not entirely accurate and urged the jury to find the men “not guilty.”

All four of the attorneys called the jury’s attention back to surveillance video evidence of what prosecutors called a “chase.”

In the videos, Wilson and his friends are seen passing through a neighborhood and parking lot. Kearney and Risper are seen following them. In the parking lot, Kearney drops something and stops to pick it up. Risper raises his right hand in a shrug-like gesture.

Prosecutors say the videos show Wilson and his friends running from Kearney and Risper. They say the item Kearney drops is a gun and that the gesture Risper makes is one of, “Come on, let’s go.”

This is not a who-dun-it mystery,” Ortwein said.

But defense attorneys disagreed.

Dana Page said the movement can hardly be characterized as running.

These guys aren’t running for their lives,” she said. “They’re walking, or what I would say, skipping. They aren’t acting like someone who threatened to kill them is chasing them.”

Of Risper’s gesture, he could easily have been trying to right himself when stepping on a curb, she said.

Kearney’s attorney, Gene Johnson, disagreed that Kearney dropped—and picked up—a gun.

It could have been a can of sardines,” he said.

What happened next was a playground shootout. When it was over, Wilson lay dying on a nearby doorstep, felled by a .45-caliber bullet to his side.

Said Ortwein, “Kwan Kearney felt like he had been betrayed. He’d had his butt beaten [in a fight at a party earlier] and because of that embarrassment, rather than letting that betrayal and rage stay [at the party], it escalated. Kwan Kearney pulled the trigger and Jeremy Risper is guilty as an aider and abetter. When you boil the case down you have these two guns, those two defendants, these three blocks, and Jamal Wilson’s death.”

Page told jurors a different part of the story. She said Wilson and his friends had laid in wait for Kearney and Risper with ski masks covering their faces so that they wouldn’t be recognized on any video surveillance.

If [Wilson and his friends] were so afraid that they were running for their lives trying to get away from these guys coming at them guns blazing, why did they stop to see if these guys [crossed the street] why did they stop to put masks on,” she asked the jury. “Are those the actions of young men that are scared? Are those the actions of young men that are fleeing? Are those the actions of young men that are defending themselves? Absolutely not.”

Jeremy Risper pulled a gun out to protect himself from getting shot,” she said.

Johnson argued that Kearney had no reason to kill Wilson; Kearney’s family testified earlier in the week that the men were “best friends.” He also called into question the government’s witnesses, at least two of whom have plea arguments with the government in other cases and are awaiting sentencing.

Referencing Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Johnson told the jury, “There’s something rotten in the US versus Kwan Kearney.”

The jury is expected to begin deliberating on the case at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

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