Jury asks judge for information in federal judge shooting case
A Wayne County jury deliberating the fate of the man charged with shooting U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg went home Monday without reaching a verdict.
They are set to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday. They deliberated for about three hours Monday. During that time, they has sent out two notes with questions about evidence presented at trial.
The defendant, Kevin Andre Smith Jr., last year was part of a ring that committed “far reaching” crimes across Detroit’s northwest side, an assistant prosecutor Monday in his closing arguments in Smith trial.
“The defendant and his gang threatened and terrorized (residents) in northwest Detroit,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said Monday. “They had a plan to make money by robbing people.”
Moran said testimony from victims and co-conspirators as well as cellphone records and other evidence ties Smith to the shooting of Judge Terrence Berg and other victims from January to May 2015.
Berg was shot and wounded on his front porch after he refused to let a gunman who approached him into his house where he allegedly planned to rob the judge.
Smith is being tried on numerous charges including assault with intent to commit murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery.
Jurors’ notes to Wayne Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny asked for Berg’s height, transcripts from Smith’s testimony about his arrest in the case and also the testimony from a police officer who testified.
Kenny told jurors they would have to rely on their “collective memory ... and evidence given to you” about the judge’s height. Kenny also told the jury he will work with the court reporter to get the transcripts they requested although it could take some time.
During his closing arguments, attorney John McWilliams, urged jurors not to judge the case on “emotion and sympathy” and to acquit Smith. He told them Berg did not make a positive identification of Smith as his shooter and to not believe the testimony of Smith’s alleged co-conspirators, Robert Williams and Dondiego Adams. Williams said the two blamed Smith for the Berg shooting and for taking part in numerous robberies because they got plea deals to “throw (Smith) under the bus.”
“What is their credibility and their believability,” McWilliams said. “I believe (their testimony) was based on what they received (plea deals). My client has maintained his innocence.”
McWilliams said only Williams and Adams identified Smith as the Berg shooter and as part of the crime ring that robbed, pistol whipped and shot victims, mostly elderly.
In his rebuttal, Moran said Berg said Smith’s eyes were similar to the “distinctive eyes” his shooter had. The prosecutor also said Berg’s wife said Smith had a similar build to one of the men who fled her home after the March 5, 2015, shooting outside Berg’s home in the city’s University District.
Moran told jurors Smith was connected to the Berg shooting and the robberies through not only testimony from Williams and Adams but also through other witnesses and testimony presented during the three-week trial before Wayne County Judge Timothy Kenny.
Moran said Smith lied and evaded questions while on the witness stand Thursday and Monday about his alleged role in the crimes. The prosecutor said he did not apologize for giving plea deals to Williams and Adams.
“But for their testimony Mr. Smith would still be on the streets robbing old people and shooting people,” Moran said. “I’m not going to apologize for it if (it helps) stop the cycle of violence in the City of Detroit.”
Smith took the stand briefly again Monday and maintained his innocence in shooting Berg. He denied selling a gun used to shoot the judge. The weapon has not been recovered.
“I didn’t shoot the judge,” Smith said Thursday during testimony. “If I shot a judge, sir, I would have taken a plea agreement.”
Moran said Berg’s shooting was part of the ring’s conspiracy to find unsuspecting victims and rob them.
Smith said he was not into “robbing houses and families” and denied being part of a crime ring’s robberies that included “walk-in” home invasions which involved members of the ring forcing victims at gunpoint to walk into their homes where they were robbed of cash, credit cards and jewelry.
Under cross-examination, Smith admitted he lied when questioned by police about robberies.
Smith also admitted to the robbery of a Roseville jewelry store but refused to answer questions by Moran about who was with him during that robbery in May 2015.
“I’m not getting ready to implicate (anyone else),” Smith said. “I’m manning up to what I did.”
Williams took a plea deal and testified earlier this month he saw Smith shoot the judge.
Williams said he and Smith quickly fled as Berg fell to the ground screaming for help. The pair ran to a car where two others were waiting.
“We was laughing about it,” Williams said about Berg being wounded. Williams also put Smith at “most” of the robberies the ring was being investigated for by Detroit police.
Smith backed out of a plea deal May 9 for the Berg shooting, the day his trial was scheduled to begin, saying the prison sentence would have been too lengthy.
Berg took the stand at the beginning of the trial about what happened the night he was shot on his front porch after refusing to let an unknown man inside his home.
“I said ‘no, no, no.’ Then he said, ‘we have a gun.’ Everything happened quickly. I didn’t want them to come into the house,” Berg testified. “He had a gun. I was concerned he might harm my family or me.”
Berg has been in the courtroom throughout the trial.