Court: Prosecutors could retry Kareem Lane on '92 murder

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 7, 2014 

Nearly 15 months after a Muscogee County Superior Court jury deadlocked while deciding the fate of the man accused of killing former school superintendent Jim Burns in 1992, a judge has called a hearing to determine the prosecutor’s next move.

Kareem Lane, who was tried on murder charges in September 2012, will be back in front of Judge Bobby Peters at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Lane’s attorney, Stacey Jackson, said it is past time for District Attorney Julia Slater’s office to drop the charges and let Lane move forward with his life.

Lane has been free on an about $30,000 bond since the trial. He spent nearly two years in the Muscogee County jail awaiting trial.

“It is time for Julia to stop playing politics and dismiss this case,” Jackson said Tuesday.

Lane came up two votes shy of an acquittal on charges that he fatally stabbed Burns in 1992. After the trial, the district attorney’s office indicated it planned to retry Lane. Slater would not say Tuesday how her office plans to proceed.

“Everything is in the same position it was previously and we plan to attend tomorrow’s hearing,” Slater said. The hearing was called by Peters and not requested by either party.

“If they are going to move forward, I think he will set a trial date,” Jackson said. The last trial included eight days of testimony.

The prosecutors have several options, Slater said. First, they can retry Lane on the murder charges, dismiss the charges or adjust the charges. Jackson indicated that if the district attorney’s office continued the delay, he would file a motion asking for all charges to be dismissed.

There is no statute of limitations on murder charges, meaning the prosecution can bring a case at any time.

Lane, 38, is accused of sneaking into Burns’ Broadway home on Oct. 19, 1992, and fatally stabbing the controversial superintendent in his bedroom. Police recovered an empty knife sheath in Lane’s pickup that prosecutors said fits the murder weapon.

A 17-year-old Shaw High School student at the time, Lane was questioned hours after the stabbing as witnesses claimed to have seen his pickup parked suspiciously in Burns’ neighborhood. He was later released without charges, even though investigators thought he was behaving suspiciously.

Lane wasn’t charged with murder until 2010, after authorities claimed to have “matched” his DNA to skin cells found on the knife that killed Burns. Trial testimony showed the DNA to be inconclusive, and, according to one juror, almost seemed counterproductive to the prosecution’s case.

After the trial, Lane returned to the Birmingham, Ala., area, Jackson said. He is married and his wife had a child in the last week, according to Jackson. Lane has a job, but needs to know what the future holds, his attorney said.

Don’t look for Lane to agree to a plea deal on lesser charges.

“He is not pleading to anything because he didn’t do it,” Jackson said. “What they offered or didn’t offer is not relevant because there is no negotiation. We are not taking any plea offer.”

After the 2012 trial, assistant district attorney LaRae Dixon Moore said she was convinced Lane is the person who took Burn’s life. At the time, Moore said she has an idea about what might have motivated Lane. “At this point, it’s something that we can’t prove,” she said, “but with more time, it’s possible.”

She also said she would not bring the case if she didn’t believe that he committed the murder,.

“To me, it was just crystal clear, but maybe I’m looking at it through jaded glasses,” Moore said.

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