The attempted murder trial of Richard T. Bennett cleared a significant pre-trial hurdle Thursday when the judge in the case, District Judge Gunnar Sundby, ruled that the transcript of the alleged victim's testimony from a preliminary hearing could be used in the trial.
The alleged victim, Lachelle Kemp, died recently in an automobile accident.
Bennett has been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly attacking Kemp and her then unborn child and with making a criminal threat against Kemp.
The attorney for the defense, Clinton Lee, argued that the "preliminary hearing isn't designed to be a mini trial," and as such "is an inappropriate venue to have these full-blown cross examinations." Lee maintained that because he was unable to further cross-examine the alleged victim (especially in light of recently discovered evidence) the transcript of the testimony should have been excluded.
The County, represented in court by Assistant County Attorney Christopher Scott, held that Lee had extensively cross-examined Kemp in the preliminary hearing, yielding "40 to 50 pages" of transcript testimony.
The judge sided with the County, and found that because Kemp was unavailable, the transcript could be used.
The defense also presented a motion to exclude audio and video recording during the proceedings, a motion regarding a recently discovered letter the prosecution was planning to introduce into evidence, as well as a discovery motion requesting additional information about criminal histories and past convictions for various non-law enforcement witnesses.
After discussing the defense motions, the judge heard testimony on the defendant's assertion of self-defense and request for immunity on all the charges.
Bennett testified on his own behalf in front of Judge Sundby.
Lee's initial questioning of Bennett focused on an altercation between Kemp, Bennett, and Bennett's fiancée, Anita Parkinson, that took place in March, 2013. Bennett said that at the time, Kemp was pregnant with Bennett's child but the two were no longer in a romantic relationship.
On the night in question, Bennett was romantically involved with his now-fiancée, Parkinson, when they ran into Kemp at the local bar. According to Bennett's testimony, Kemp argued with Bennett and may have gotten into a physical altercation with Parkinson, resulting in injuries to Parkinson's face.
Contradicting Kemp's testimony from the preliminary trial regarding the June 18, 2013 altercation that led to the charges in the case, Bennett maintained that Kemp had followed him to the gas station and convenience store at 501 Limit St.
Bennett also alleged that it was Kemp who first pulled out the knife when she snatched and broke Bennett's glasses, and that she was the aggressor in the situation.
After the two struggled for the knife, Bennett stated that he gained control of the knife but did not intentionally injure Kemp. He maintained that any injuries were the result of her ongoing struggle with him while he held the knife.
Page 2 of 2 - Bennett testified that he did not threaten to kill Kemp, nor did he threaten to harm or kill the infant she was carrying at the time.
Bennett was also questioned about a letter that a friend allegedly had written to Kemp on Bennett's behalf that included an apology from Bennett and discussed the potential sentences he was facing.
When both Scott and Lee had completed their questioning, the judge mentioned that while the issue of immunity was relatively new to Kansas's jurisprudence, there were sufficient cases to guide an approach.
Saying he was taking into account the Kemp testimony from the preliminary hearing, as well as Bennett's testimony in the pre-trial hearing, the judge discussed the various injuries Kemp had sustained and said he accepted her testimony.
Believing that the state had fulfilled their burden beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge denied the motion for immunity based on self-defense.
The trial will continue in two weeks.