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Jury begins deliberations in Cole murder trial

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 22, 2013, at 7:34 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 23, 2013, at 6:28 a.m.

A Sedgwick County jury began deliberations Friday in a first-degree murder case that is based largely on a disputed “identification” of the defendant by former East High School basketball standout Korleone Young.

Prosecutors argued during the two-week trial that Young identified Terrell Cole when he picked up a mug shot lineup containing six pictures and folded it in a manner that left Cole’s picture as the only one showing. Prosecutors said fear of retaliation kept Young from making a verbal identification.

Defense lawyer Richard Ney said in his closing argument Friday that the identification never happened.

“You can say, ‘He sort of squirmed and nodded,’ but that’s not him saying, ‘He’s the guy,’ ” Ney said. “The state is basing its whole case on a nod that even Korleone says never happened.”

When Young testified last week, he told the jury he couldn’t identify Cole in the courtroom, and he said his actions during interviews with police and the folding of the mug shot lineup should not be taken as an identification of Cole.

But prosecutor Justen Phelps told the jury in his closing argument that Young, like all other witnesses in the case, was afraid to tell the truth.

“Why? Because they get their houses shot up for talking to police. That’s why,” he said.

Cole, 32, is charged with killing Andre Lovett while the men were trying to rob the occupants of a house at 1822 N. Minneapolis. Young and several other men had gathered at the house to drink and gamble on Jan. 19, 2011.

As Young and another man ran from the scene, prosecutors said, Cole fired a shot that struck Lovett in the abdomen.

Wichita police said someone driving a blue Chevrolet van – a van that Cole had been driving that day – dropped Lovett off at Wesley Medical Center shortly after the shooting. Lovett, 30, died the next day.

Testimony at the trial showed that a shell casing found at the scene of the shooting matched casings that were found five days later after someone fired several shots into a house in the 2600 block of North Madison where Young was staying.

Throughout the trial, Ney contended that it was Gregory “Big” Reynolds who accidentally shot Lovett during the attempted robbery. Evidence showed that Reynolds and Lovett exchanged several calls and text messages in the hours before Lovett’s death. Reynolds, who is serving time on a federal drug charge, told the jury he had nothing to do with the robbery.

Ney told the jury that Wichita police could have eliminated Reynolds as a suspect by checking to see whether his DNA was on the steering wheel of the van.

“The evidence of who was driving that van was on the steering wheel,” Ney said. “They didn’t bother swabbing. ... They didn’t bother to check.”

Ney also reminded the jury that one of several alibi witnesses, Cole’s mother, said her son was at her Wichita house at the time the shots were fired at the house on North Madison.

During his closing comments, Phelps reminded the jury that the alibi witnesses also included two women who had each born one of Cole’s children. One women testified that Cole was with her in a Wichita hotel room on the night of the botched robbery. The other said that Cole was with her that night at her home in southeast Wichita.

“Supposedly the defendant was at these two witnesses’ houses at the same time,” Phelps said. “You know it’s inconsistent. What motive could they possibly have” for not telling the truth?

The jury deliberated about 21/2 hours Friday before adjourning for the weekend.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichtiaeagle.com.

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