Former UNC Chapel Hill football player, Kenan Gay found not guilty in the death of Robert Kingston. Gay was accused of second degree murder and of throwing a man in front of a moving car outside a Dilworth bar.
Kenan Gay was presumed innocent and the jury allowed him to walk away a free man, but that doesn't mean he walks away scott free.
Kenan Gay and his supporters are relieved but not necessarily happy. The jury deliberated over three days for about nine hours. The jury came in before lunch time Friday and said they had a verdict.
When the verdict of not guilty was read, Kenan Gay had his head down and was crying. And you could see tears from Gay's wife Liz Wicker Gay. The judge took time to thank the jurors for their service and seriousness throughout the trial. He also addressed the families. Judge Forrest D. Bridges said he really appreciated the families. Bridges said they carried themselves with respect and dignity in spite of what has been a very unfortunate tragedy for those involved.
Robert Kingston's parents and family have sat through a trial where people have portrayed him as a drunk who grabbed women at bars. The family of Robert Kingston did not speak leaving the courthouse. But Kenan Gay's father said after the verdict he is thankful his son was found not guilty. Doug Gay said it's been a exhausting and long 2 and half years.
"There's no winners in this case. Kenan has been living under a dark cloud for a little over two years and he's been falsely accused of a serious crime and in addition the Kingston's family has lost a loved one. We're all sorry for that," said Doug Gay.
Kenan Gay's lawyer, David Rudolf said Gay said, "Thank God," after the verdict. Rudolf told Gay he gets his life back.
For the last two years Gay has been replaying six seconds over in his mind, the moment he saw Robert Kingston touch his girlfriend to the moment he saw Kingston lying in Park Road.
Gay testified that when he saw Robert Kingston touch Liz Wicker Gay he wanted to get Kingston off her. Gay said he pushed Kingston out the door of Ed's Tavern in Dilworth, but he never said he pushed Kingston into the street where Kingston died.
"Kenan was defending his girlfriend at the time, now his wife, and during this trial he was defending his character," said Doug Gay.
The Charlotte Law School graduate convinced the jury what happened two years ago was an accident.
"This was not something that he ever anticipated imagined or wanted. If he could bring back Robert Kingston tomorrow, he would do it in a heart beat," said Rudolf.
Robert Kingston died on March 3, 2012 and Kenan Gay could have lost his freedom. Every day during the trial the jury saw two families invested in the outcome.
"I believe the jury followed the law and didn't base their verdict on sympathy," said Assistant District Attorney Anna Greene, "But I think they probably felt sympathy for everyone involved in the case. It's sad for both families involved."
Kenan Gay is not guilty, and Rudolf said he believes the jury didn't make the decision on whether Robert Kingston died from a push or a stumble.
"I think it boiled down to the six seconds, how quickly it all happened," said Rudolf.
Prosecutors said the law and the evidence supported both second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Second degree murder is an unintentional killing of a human being with malice. Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing done in a criminally negligent way.
While both the prosecution and the defense agreed Kenan Gay didn't want Robert Kingtson to die, prosecutors tried to prove Gay showed no regard when he threw Robert Kingston into the street and into the path of oncoming traffic. But the defense argued Gay didn't do that and he just wanted to protect Liz Wicker Gay from Kingston.
Both sides acknowledge the seven women and five men on the jury had a lot of evidence to consider in this case.
"The case was one of the most unusual cases of homicide, if not the most unusual that any of the people in the courtroom have ever seen from the judge to the attorneys," said Jay Ashendorf, the lead prosecutor, "The law is just very complicated in this area."
The jury found that Kenan Gay's action that night didn't meet the burden of proof for second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. Kenan Gay and his family are relieved. But the case doesn't end with this acquittal.
Kenan Gay has a job but he wants to be a lawyer. He's graduated from Charlotte School of Law but hasn't been able to take the bar exam because he was charged with second degree murder.
Kenan Gay testified on March 3, 2012 he was celebrating UNC Chapel Hill's victory over Duke in basketball. He says he went to Ed's Tavern after he worked on a take home exam from Charlotte Law School. He never finished that exam because he was arrested for Robert Kingston's death and was recorded by an officer's dash cam video.
"What you didn't see in court was him saying the Lord's prayer in that car over and over and over again for 45 minutes," said Rudolf, "You can't watch that video and feel anything other than the fact that he was devastated what had happened."
Gay said he was praying for everyone involved.
"The Kingston family is having a hard time right now. We certainly sympathize with the Kingston family," said Ashendorf, "This has been a very difficult couple of years for them and a very difficult three week period."
This case is not over for the Kingston family. They have filed a civil suit against Ed's Tavern and Kenan Gay. But Gay's lawyer said that's about money versus Gay's future.
"We're not worried about the civil suit. None of that stuff matters. What matters is someone has lost their life and I think Kenan feels very very strongly regardless of the verdict here," said Rudolf.
Rudolf said this case could affect Gay's plans.
"Yes, he is going to become a lawyer. He's going to still have to go through the character committee. The fact that he was acquitted here doesn't mean that his character is still not going to be questioned," said Rudolf, "But certainly that's his goal and that's what he intends to do."
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