by Kyle Swenson
A former University of Akron student who received a felony conviction for his role in a boozy street fight in Kent that ended in homicide will get a new trial, according to a ruling handed down today by the state appeals court. Newsnet5 says the higher robes decided the trial judge dropped the ball by not instructing jurors they could find Shaker Heights-native Adrian Barker guilty of a lesser charge in his original 2010 proceedings.
In 2009, Barker and two other U of A students headed to Kent State for a party. They apparently almost ran over 23-year-old Christopher Kernich and a couple of his friends while pulling in, setting off a physical altercation between the two groups.
Prosecutors argued Barker sucker punched Kernich while he was tangling with another individual. The blow sent the Kent student to the pavement, cracking his head on the surface. While down, Barker and the other stomped Kernich until he was unconscious. The student died in a hospital bed days later.
Although Barker's defense tried to pin the fatal blow to one of the defendant's friend, a Portage County jury found the then-21-year-old guilty of murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence.
In today's decision, the appeals court determined jurors should have been told they had the legal elbow room to find Barker guilty of reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, or assault. The ruling sends the matter back to Portage County's common pleas court for a new trial, but the news doesn't completely wipe Barker's slate clean. The conviction for tampering with evidence still stands. That charge stemmed from when police observed Barker trying to wipe something from his shoes while in custody.