UPDATE: An attorney's complaint that he received prosecution evidence too late to devise a defense strategy has led to a delay in the murder trial of Timothy Leshan Robinson and Dana Michael Kessler, charged in the 2012 shooting of Jeffrey Morgan at Columbus’ Sands Apartments.
Robinson and Kessler are accused of mortally wounding Morgan while trying to rob him April 6, 2012, during a marijuana deal in the parking lot of the 1213 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. apartments. They were arrested April 8, 2012. A third suspect, Edward Trevor Love, was arrested June 12 in Phenix City, where he’s still being held on charges there.
This afternoon Kessler's attorney Moffett Flournoy told Superior Court Judge William Rumer that prosecutors just last week revealed police had found Kessler's palm print on the car in which Morgan was shot and just conducted tests to confirm the substance the suspects allegedly tried to steal from Morgan was marijuana. Flournoy also said he didn't get a prosecution witness' contact information until Saturday.
Assistant District Attorney Sadhana Dailey said she gave the defense that information as soon as she got it, but the discovery of such evidence is ongoing. The defense should have known the marijuana would be tested, and it already knew police had found Kessler's fingerprints on Morgan's car before it got the report on the palm print.
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She also said Kessler already told police he shot Morgan, though he claimed it was unintentional, and Robinson admitted setting up the deal.
Flournoy said police had no excuse for the delay in testing what he described as "two big chunks" of marijuana, each over 30 grams: "They've had it for 17 months." He added: "I understand things come up. I understand discovery is an ongoing process." But Kessler is facing a life sentence without parole and deserves the best defense he can get, Flournoy said: "He's the one who's going to suffer."
Flournoy asked Rumer either to throw out the evidence that came in late, or to postpone the trial.
Rumer agreed to reset the trial date for Oct. 28, ordering that attorneys on each side provide all their evidence to each other by Oct. 22. He said he will hear motions in the case at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 10, a Thursday, but if that hearing must be postponed, it will be 9 a.m. the following Saturday, even if college football games are scheduled that same day.
"You will miss a game day, but you will survive," the judge said.
The trial's postponement was announced just hours after Kessler and Robinson turned down plea offers. Defense attorneys said Kessler was offered a sentence of 40 years in prison with 30 to serve, and Robinson was offered 25 years with 15 to serve.
Each faces four counts of felony murder, one of malice murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, using a firearm to commit a crime and trying to buy marijuana.
Besides possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it, Kessler also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Flournoy said he will ask that the jury consider that charge separately to avoid the prejudicial effect it could have on jurors in the murder case.
Robinson’s attorney is Stacey Jackson.
Investigators said Morgan and Robinson had arranged to meet at the apartments where Morgan arrived in his 2011 Mazda about 2:25 p.m. that Friday. Robinson, Kessler and Love arrived moments later in a Mitsubishi. Two of the three got out and walked over to Morgan's vehicle, where Kessler pulled a gun and tried to rob Morgan, police said.
Kessler fired a shot that went through Morgan's upper right arm and into his chest, then dragged Morgan out of the Mazda, investigators said. One suspect drove the Mazda away while the other two left in the Mitsubishi, police said.
Morgan’s Mazda was found abandoned nearby on Talley Avenue.
On Morgan’s cell phone detectives found a number that led them to Robinson, who admitted being at the apartments to buy drugs, but denied knowing Kessler planned to rob Morgan, officers said. Kessler told police each suspect knew they were to rob Morgan, investigators said.
Morgan was 25 years old. At the time of the crime, Robinson was 20, Kessler 25 and Love 19, police said.