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Murder jury trial begins

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Kyle Randall died on the first day of 2018 after he was stabbed in the heart during a fight at a New Years Eve party on Canfield Street.

Special prosecuting attorneys Karen Richardson and Adam Mildred described the facts they plan to show the 12-person jury that was selected Monday, alleging that Ryan M. Richison “knowingly and intentionally” murdered Randall.

Mildred said the party goers were “having a good time,” playing beer pong, consuming Jello shots and partying before something made Richison mad.

“He was mad enough that he punched a hole in the wall,” Mildred said.

Mildred said Richison later stabbed Randall in the neck, leg, right arm, between the ribs and near the heart.

According to prosecution, Richison provoked the fight that killed Randall before fleeing the scene without shoes or a coat, leaving a trail in the snow that police would later use to find him hiding in a garage with a broken window on Fruit Street.

“You can see the defendant, so committed to getting away, crawls through the broken glass… who’s ultimately confronted by the homeowner… The garage opens up, and there is the defendant,” prosecuting attorney Adam Mildred said as he explained the events leading to Richison’s detainment.

The first thing Richison remembers was waking up in a hospital bed around 7 a.m., according to his defense lawyer Joe Lewis.

“At sometime, Ryan blacked out. He doesn’t recall things up to a certain point,” Lewis said.

Although things climaxed on New Year’s Eve, Lewis said the story goes back all the way to Sept. 2, 2015.

Since then, the "good friends" “exchanged words” at Legends Bar one night, and things were still not resolved by the summer of 2017, according to Lewis, when the two argued at a ball diamond.

The night Randall died, Lewis said Richison was acting in self defense. Lewis claims Richison did not instigate the fight and that Randall had beaten Richison in the head, pinned Richison and placed his hands around Richison’s neck at some point.

Lewis said a witness saw Richison with a knife after the incident, saying he allegedly looked shocked.

It was a “tragic injury” resulting from self defense, Lewis says, but he called the state’s argument “factually incorrect.”

“This is not murder,” Lewis said.

As the snow melted on the first day of 2018, drones scoured the area between the two crime scenes in search of a knife, but Mildred said no knife was found in the search shortly after the incident.

Lewis used this information his opening argument, but evidence records show that police found a knife with a wooden handle on Aug. 9, 2018 near 958 Division St. No DNA evidence or fingerprints were found upon evaluation, according to lab reports.

The prosecution and defense whittled down nearly 70 possible jurors to a panel of 14, two of which will be alternates. Of the four rounds of questioning, where the prosecution and defense cross examined the jurors, only between two to five jurors were selected.

A majority of the jurors were disqualified for either knowing the defendant, victim or witnesses.

The defense’s questions to jurors centered around their definition of recklessness and self defense.

Lewis asked each group if they had any second-hand or personal experience of blacking out whether from drinking or medical reasons. He also would ask the jurors if they served on the military.

Prosecutors focused their questions on whether prospective jurors believed that Indiana’s laws were fair. She explained that a person can’t claim self defense if they started the fight, and she said Indiana law only allows for a “reasonable reaction.”

“A person claiming self defense must fear for their life,” she said.

“The amount of force must be proportionate to other’s,” Richardson continued.

Richardson also repeatedly asked the groups if they felt that people should be responsible for their actions after engaging in drinking.

Lewis asked one group if they felt that hands could be considered a deadly weapon.

After receiving preliminary instructions and hearing opening arguments, the jury is set to hear witness testimony along with evidence over the next few days.

Circuit Court Judge Davin Smith said he believes the trial will take five-days in total.

The trial is expected to begin at 8:15 a.m. each day, ending around 4:30 p.m. depending on the progression of evidence.

The witness list includes 57 people. Randall’s brother, former girlfriend, and friends are on the list, along with the defendant's sister, multiple police officers, detectives, bystanders at the party and doctors.