Prosecutors rested their case against Kenan Gay on Wednesday after describing a manhunt through the Dilworth neighborhood for Gay, followed by his surrender and arrest.
On Thursday, Gay’s attorneys will begin explaining why he should remain free.
Gay, 25, is charged with second-degree murder in the March 2012 death of Robert Kingston, who was struck by a car outside Ed’s Tavern on Park Road. If convicted, his sentence could range from probation to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Gay was angry about Kingston’s advances toward his girlfriend at the bar and that Kingston was drunk but harmless.
They’ve presented four witnesses – the bar’s owner, a bouncer and a couple outside smoking cigarettes – who say they saw Gay push Kingston into the street and into the path of oncoming traffic.
“There was a struggle and (Kingston) was trying to get free, but he didn’t get free,” Brittany Scott, one of the smokers, told jurors Wednesday morning. “And (Gay) pushed and the guy went into the street and then the car hit him.”
The bouncer told jurors he overheard Gay say he wanted to beat up Kingston.
Defense attorneys claim Gay was trying to protect his girlfriend from a “dangerously intoxicated” man who was touching her and making unwanted advances. Kingston had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29, more than three times the legal limit to drive. They say Kingston accidentally stumbled into the street.
Gay tried “to help the woman he loves because she’s been wrapped in a bear hug,” Defense Attorney David Rudolf said while making a motion to dismiss the case after the prosecution rested.
Kingston’s death, Rudolf said, “was a tragedy, a true tragedy, but it’s not second-degree murder because (Gay) didn’t act with the kind of malice that second-degree murder entails.”
Judge Forrest Bridges said he would rule on the motion to dismiss the case on Thursday morning.
Bridges is also expected to decide whether text messages Kingston sent to a friend before the incident can be presented to the jury. The texts are laced with profanity and talk about Kingston’s intentions to find a woman to have sex with that night.
Gay’s attorneys argue the texts give insight into Kingston’s state of mind and debunk prosecutors’ claims that he was just flirting.
Prosecutors say the texts are not germane to the case, which should focus on Gay’s actions.
Earlier Wednesday, Brittany and Ryan Scott, the couple smoking cigarettes outside of Ed’s that night, told jurors they saw Gay push Kingston out of the bar and into the street.
Bridges sent the jury away for about 30 minutes as defense attorneys and prosecutors tried to determine if photos submitted into evidence accurately showed where on the 7-foot wide sidewalk Brittany Scott believes Gay was standing when he let go of Kingston.
Later, Rudolf showed Ryan Scott a video taken a few months ago when the witness agreed to go to Ed’s Tavern with an investigator. The video showed Ryan Scott making a circle with his hands in the parking lot of Ed’s.
“That area is near the back of the cars, a foot or more short of the sidewalk,” David Rudolf said.
Later, he asked the witness: “Do you remember telling police that you saw Mr. Kingston stumble into the street?”
Ryan Scott replied “yes” to both questions.
One of the final witnesses for the prosecution was a man who chased Gay as he fled through Dilworth.
Michael Buttice said he put down his beer and chased after Gay shortly after Kingston was struck by a car. He and another friend lost sight of Gay at least twice, then split up to look for him.
“At some point, he comes out with his hands up and said, ‘It’s me. I didn’t mean for it to happen. The guy tried to kiss my girlfriend,’ ” Buttice said.
Prosecutors also played the recording of the 911 call Buttice made as he chased Gay. At one point, he says: “I got him. I got him.”
Moments later, Gay’s voice can be heard saying: “It was an accident.”
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less