published Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Attorney uses rare tactic in murder trial of Kaylon Bailey

Defendant Kaylon Bailey, who is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and the killing of Kima Evans, sits in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom on Tuesday.
Defendant Kaylon Bailey, who is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and the killing of Kima Evans, sits in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom on Tuesday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Prosecutors told jurors Tuesday, at the beginning of the murder trial of Kaylon Bailey, that the victim told multiple people Bailey shot and killed him in his parent's driveway before he lapsed into a coma and later died.

Bailey's defense attorney, Mike Acuff, told the jurors nothing.

In the vast majority of local criminal homicide trials, attorneys on each side take turns with opening statements, a time to speak directly to the jury and lay out his or her theory of the case and likelihood of proof and guilt.

But Acuff asked Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern to allow him to use an option allowed by law -- to hold off on a statement until he presents evidence for his client.

Attorneys not connected to the trial said the move can be risky or pay large dividends, depending on how the trial proceeds.

The choice is risky because if the lawyer decides not to put on evidence, there's no chance to talk to the jury. But being able to speak to the jury later in the trial as he or she presents evidence can be helpful because it is unchallenged by the prosecutor until closing arguments at the end of the trial.

Under the American legal system a defendant is innocent until proven guilty and has no obligation to put on any proof or testify. Judges routinely instruct juries not to weigh anything against the defendant if he or she doesn't testify or doesn't put on proof.

It is the prosecutor's responsibility to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors Jason Demastus and Bates Bryan put on police witnesses who responded to the call of multiple shots fired at Kima Evans' mother's 1706 Cambridge Drive home on Jan. 13, 2012.

Evans, 35, was smoking marijuana alone in the passenger seat of his mother's Mercedes when someone on the driver's side fired 10 .223-caliber rifle rounds.

The weapon was not recovered, but police said the shots likely all came from the same weapon -- an assault rifle.

Bullets struck Evans twice in his chest, once in the elbow and twice in the back as he turned away, trying to get into the backseat.

"There were no neighbors or friends who saw, there was one witness who knew exactly what happened and that was Mr. Evans," Demastus told the jury.

The trial resumes this morning.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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