Tattoos, song lyrics and Kenneth Walker are the issues addressed in prosecutors’ pretrial motions in the murder case against Kareem Lane, who’s to be retried this summer for the 1992 stabbing of then-school superintendent Jim Burns.
Two years after his first trial ended in a mistrial as jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal, Lane this August is to be tried again on charges he broke into the school chief’s 620 Broadway home and stabbed Burns in the back during a struggle about 12:20 a.m. Dec. 19, 1992. The assault occurred in Burns’ second-floor bedroom and the struggle continued as Burns, 50, wrestled with the intruder while going down the stairs, investigators said. The burglar escaped out the front door, where Burns collapsed and bled to death.
Police stopped Lane about 1 a.m. that night on Macon Road near Rigdon Road because he was driving a gray Ford Ranger pickup truck matching the description witnesses gave of a vehicle parked on Front Avenue a few blocks from Burns’ home. The witnesses said they saw a man run to the truck and drive off about the time Burns was stabbed.
Police questioned and released Lane, then 17, that night. He was not charged with Burns’ homicide until cold-case investigators obtained warrants for his arrest May 4, 2010.
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Because his first trial ended without a verdict, prosecutors have the option of retrying the case before Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters, who has set a trial date of Aug. 25 and established deadlines for preliminary steps preceding the case.
Among those early steps was a deadline for filing pretrial motions. It was Friday, when Senior Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore filed three motions, one aimed at a tactic defense attorney Stacey Jackson repeatedly has used — bringing up the Dec. 10, 2003, death of Kenneth Walker, killed by a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop related to a drug investigation.
Though a deputy shot Walker in the head, Walker was unarmed and had no drugs on him. The deputy was never charged with any crime. Walker was black. The deputy was white. Wrote Moore: “In 2003 there were strong opinions and emotions regarding the incident and regarding the failure of the sheriff’s deputy to stand trial. Those strong opinions and emotions continue to remain with this community.”
And Jackson likes to incite those emotions by mentioning the Walker case during trials, Moore wrote.
Jackson brought up Walker while defending Mitchell Brock, a black police officer who was accused of intimidating witnesses in the case against his brother, James Louis Brock, convicted of killing his children’s mother and a friend of hers. Mitchell Brock was acquitted.
Jackson also injected Walker’s death into the case of a Hispanic man accused of fighting with police while he allegedly was drunk downtown and harassing women. He also was acquitted.
Jackson should not be allowed to inject Walker’s shooting into the case against Lane, Moore wrote: “Where there is no evidentiary correlation between the facts of the Kenneth Walker shooting and the case at bar, to allow counsel to argue such to inflame the passions of the jury is improper.”
Using the moniker “K-Lane,” Lane records songs that he posts and sells online. Moore previously has argued some of the lyrics are violent and reminiscent of the Burns’ homicide. She has asked that two of his songs, “Semper Fi” and “Automatic Warrior,” be admitted into evidence.
Since Lane was released from jail after his mistrial on Sept. 19, 2012, he has recorded more music, Moore wrote. She would like the leeway to bring some of that into evidence, too:
“The state moves to amend its original motion regarding song lyrics to include any music created subsequent to the original trial of this case and subsequent to defendant’s release from confinement in September 2012,” she wrote.
Besides hearing or reading his song lyrics, Moore wants the next jury to see Lane’s tattoos.
The tattoos got prosecutors’ attention after Lane was arrested for the cold-case homicide in 2010. Officers booking lane into the Muscogee County Jail photographed the markings as part of the identification process.
Authorities have not released photos nor given detailed descriptions of the tattoos, but have implied they appear incriminating. At least one is a knife or sword on Lane’s arm; another on his side appears to be a set of scales balancing a clock and a yin-yang symbol, they said.
Wrote Moore: “The tattoos are relevant as evidence of admissions and/or confessions by the defendant as well as a means in which the defendant chose to memorialize and symbolize the commission of this offense.”
The next step in the pretrial process is hearing at 1 p.m. July 25, when attorneys will argue the motions before Peters. Jury selection is set for Aug. 19-22.
Meanwhile Lane remains free on $30,000 bond. He and his wife now have a little boy and live in the Birmingham, Ala., area.