Kamel Harris, the man accused of killing and dismembering 2-year-old Kyrian Knox, was acquitted this week by a Chicago jury. The prosecution did not have a strong case against Harris, a fact we discussed in a recent blog post. The prosecution relied heavily on a patchwork motive that they generated out of a lack of possibilities.
Police claimed that Harris, who was looking after Knox “snapped one day” because the baby would not stop crying. Police claimed that the baby was lactose intolerant and was having a bad reaction to milk. However, Kyrian’s mother, Lanisha Knox, told jurors that her son had no such allergy.
Harris maintained his innocence throughout the trial. He contended that Lanisha Knox had sent three men in a van to collect her son from Harris and Harris lost track of the boy once he was in their custody.
Despite the positive result for Harris, it is important to understand how and why bad cases make it to trial.
Why Did This Case Go to Trial?
The reason why this case went to trial was because it was in the news. The news reported on the brutal slaying and dismemberment of a 2-year-old boy, and someone had to take the fall for that. So police officers forced the prosecution to push the case in front of a jury and without any forensic evidence or a motive that made sense, the jury acquitted Harris. The jury was offered the opportunity to convict Harris on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter (which does not require a motive) and still elected to acquit him on all charges. Prosecutors had hoped to charge Harris with first-degree murder, dismemberment of a corpse, and more.
Cases with evidence as bad as this go to trial all the time. While the U.S. criminal system has a presumption of innocence, often times, if the prosecution puts forth any theory at all (no matter how bad it is) the defense finds itself in the position of either proving that theory wrong or finding a credible alternative and making a stronger case than the prosecution.
The idea here is for prosecutors to have jurors ask the question: If it was not the defendant who committed the crime, then who did? Harris had access to the child, so if it was not Harris, then who killed the boy?
If Not You, Then Who?
All too often, defendants are railroaded by the criminal justice system even when the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to take the case before a jury. Instead of being forced to prove the defendant’s guilt, they rhetorically shift the burden of proof to the defendant, and his or her attorney is then tasked with doing law enforcement’s job for them: Providing a more credible theory than “he flipped out because the boy was crying.”
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense attorneys ensure that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and cannot spitball theories of motives at the jury. We force law enforcement to obey the laws and ensure that sloppy police work does not take the place of evidence. David Freidberg represents defendants charged with crimes in the Chicago area. Call us today at (312) 560-7100 and we can discuss your options.