MR. HATFIELD: Your Honor, may I take the exhibits down?
THE COURT: Yes.
(All jurors present)
THE COURT: At this point, members of the jury, Mr. Hatfield will have the opening argument on behalf of the defendant. Please extend to him the same courtesy that you extended to Mr. Panosh.
You may address the jury.
MR. HATFIELD: Thank you, Your Honor. May it please the Court, Mr. Panosh, Mr. Lloyd, ladies and gentlemen:
The bond that we share that holds us together is our reverence for life and it is our reverence for life that requires that murder be punished. We believe this.
It is part of our Judeo-Christian tradition. It's what links us, whether we be Catholics, Baptists, or whatever denomination. It is the thing that makes our society whole that we respect life.
For Ronnie Kimble, I apologize to Patricia Blakely's family. To the members of the jury, I apologize for a life cut short. All of our lives are short. Many of us have lived most of our lives. We know the value of life. We're not here to debate the value of life. We're here to find a way to go on.
You have decided based upon a tremendous amount of evidence that Ronnie Kimble will spend the rest of his life in prison. He will spend the rest of his life in prison regardless of the decision you make today. It will either be a very, very long time, or a not so long time.
I don't have the privilege of telling you how he feels about that. But I can tell you this: It is a harder thing to live a long life in total confinement and to have to remember every day of your life and perhaps even every hour of your life why your life is not like free people's lives.
And so everything that was said to you a little while ago about the outrageousness of deliberate murder is certainly true. But if you want to punish a
deliberate murderer, then let him live his four score and think about what he did every day and every hour of that time.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have been told about the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors. But let's remember you've heard this evidence, and you thought about everything that you learned in this trial, including the things that the lawyers had to say about the evidence. You found Ronnie Kimble guilty of deliberate first-degree murder. Guilty of felony murder. Guilty of arson. Guilty of conspiracy. You have spoken.
I can tell you that it's not easy for me to address you, because I was just addressing you a day or so ago and you rejected the things I said. Now I have to come back and try to talk about the case bearing in mind that you did not see it as I saw it and as I hoped you'd see it. But for just a minute -- and I am well-aware of how much time you've put in, and I don't want to belabor this. And I also understand that you don't need me to tell you what to do. I really understand that. But I am a lawyer and so I'll probably run on at the mouth for a few minutes anyhow.
I'd like to ask you to remove from this equation Mr. Mitch Whidden. Obviously, he's the good guy from
whom you received evidence in this trial.
THE COURT: Objection sustained. There's no good or bad guys in this trial, members of the jury, from the standpoint of the evidence.
MR. HATFIELD: Obviously, Mitch Whidden's testimony had more credibility and you accepted that.
You also heard from Ronnie Kimble, and to some extent you couldn't credit everything he said, obviously by your judgment. And you heard from Ted Kimble, but you never got to see him. You never got to hear him answer any questions. But he has been the largest force and the greatest presence in this trial. Indeed, for the first five days of these proceedings, we hardly heard Ronnie Kimble's name. It was all about Ted Kimble. And in the second week of these proceedings, there was still a great deal about Ted Kimble. Yet, hasn't been here to answer questions to tell you anything about what went on. He was the biggest thing in the trial and none of us has laid eyes on him.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is safe to say that were it not for Ted Kimble, Patricia Kimble would be alive today. And were it not for Ted Kimble, Ronnie Kimble wouldn't be here. The reason this crime occurred belongs to Ted Kimble. And as was demonstrated to you in these proceedings, it is possible that Ted Kimble
actually went shopping -‑
MR. PANOSH: We object.
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. HATFIELD: I beg your pardon?
THE COURT: Disregard that part. Proceed.
MR. HATFIELD: May I talk about the evidence?
THE COURT: You may talk about the evidence as it relates to sentencing, mitigating and aggravating factors, unless it's in.
MR. HATFIELD: Ted Kimble needed a wife to buy a business. And he apparently didn't much care who that wife was. He asked two or three different women to marry him. And he found one who would. And that's why we're here. Perhaps he formed the intent to do harm to her before he ever even married her.
I would say to you, ladies and gentlemen, without any of us being psychologists or experts, that Ted Kimble is a psychopath. He is a murderer. And the force of his personality and the intensity of his goals and objectives is so powerful that he can influence many people and deceive many people. He deceived Patricia to her tragic demise.
Again and again, when people talked about Ted Kimble, they talked in terms of fear. Rob Nichols said that he could only explain his stealing, his going out,
leaving his wife at home and abandoning his senior year at UNCG to go out in the middle of the night and steal building materials, he says because he was afraid of Ted Kimble. He was asked why didn't you stop that stuff. Because of fear. Ted Kimble. Because Ted had a high-powered gun that would enable him to kill at a great distance. Because Ted carried this pistol or one just like it almost everywhere he went. Because Ted Kimble would pull people into his orb of criminality and deceit, and they couldn't get away. That's what Nichols told you.
Patrick Pardee, who appears in the wedding picture, the same wedding picture that Ronnie Kimble appears in, pulled into this web of criminality and deceit by Ted Kimble. Pulled into this fear.
These men told you, both of them, that they couldn't go to Detective Church and report what they knew and what they feared they knew and what they feared was going to happen because they were afraid of Ted Kimble.
Rodney Woodberry -- a very troubled young man. Think of what he reported to you about the nature of Ted Kimble. He told you that on several occasions he had observed Ted and Patricia interacting and that Ted would throw temper tantrums to the effect I wish I had never
married that woman. I wish I could strangle her. wish she were dead.
Why didn't Rodney Woodberry tell Patricia? He was her friend. He had been to her house. Perhaps it was fear. He said it was fear.
Ted asked Rodney Woodberry if he could help him find a hit man. Why didn't Rodney do something? Was it fear?
Ladies and gentlemen, Ted Kimble exercised a very real power over other people that we can't understand because we've not laid eyes on him, and we've not heard him answer questions.
What was the power that he may have had over his brother? We don't know. The State says in its case they were very close. But many, many people who know Ronnie Kimble say they weren't close. Is there some way that this inconsistency can be understood? Is it possible that two brothers could be not very close but still in a dominant and a dependent relationship of some kind? Is that possible? Do we know?
It is not in the nature of trials of this kind - for the defendant to be able to open every door and to prove every proposition. He has a right to ask you to find him not guilty and to shape his case accordingly. We can't hear from every witness on earth, ladies and
gentlemen. We heard from more than 80 witnesses in the course of these proceedings. That was probably too many. And yet, in some ways it also wasn't enough. Because there's so many things we don't know. So many things that we really ought to know.
I think that the State is right. I think Ted Kimble's capacity to dominate and to create a sense of fear and apprehension in people that he was dealing with is very real. And thus, I think it's possible that he could have corrupted his brother in such a way that his brother lost all sense of right and wrong and did this crime.
And ladies and gentlemen, I'm not saying that in any way, shape, or form that Ronnie Kimble has a diminished capacity or lacked the ability to discern right from wrong. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that his ability to do what's right and to resist some kind of a command to do the wrong thing wasn't enough.
I'm not asking for you to acquit him. That's behind us. I'm not asking you to forgive him. That's for his God. He will, regardless of what you decide, serve the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release ever. Cold steel bars; toilets without seats. Don't think it's any kind of picnic, ladies and gentlemen. And appropriately so that it is
Now, because there wasn't very much real evidence about the relationship between Ted and Ronnie, and because there wasn't very much real evidence about what happened, no witness told you that he had ever heard those two young men plot to do anything, much less murder. You had to infer it from the facts, and it must not have been easy. And I know, because I know that you are all good people. I know you struggled with that decision. And you made it based upon what you knew.
But let's face it. We don't know the nature of the relationship. There is not any evidence of this filthy money that you talk about.
Ladies and gentlemen, you were satisfied that first-degree murder was appropriate and you so found. So I'm not saying that he's not guilty of murder. I'm saying that you were somehow able to look at this evidence and find that he was guilty of murder without there being any evidence that he was ever paid anything or promised anything or expected anything. It's just not there.
How much are we going to infer? How much are we going to just take on faith? Because it is impossible for decent people to understand murder. That's always the case.
You will go home and after this day is over with, you'll be released from your duties, and you can talk to your friends and your lovers and spouses and companions, and whoever you want to. The media. Anybody you choose about this case. And for a little while, you'll think it was an extraordinary unique case until you maybe run into somebody else that served as a juror on a murder case. And then you'll see that we can never understand murder. And it is always horrible and it is always inexcusable. Always. And you found it. And the appropriate punishment is inevitable.
But where is this business about pecuniary gain? You don't have to believe pecuniary gain. You've already found that Ronnie is guilty of first-degree murder. Look at the facts. There isn't any money involved in this case. It would be even worse to commit a crime for money than it would be to commit a crime out of some sort of intense passion. Although, how can we make distinctions like that?
Does it matter whether someone kills you because they're mad at you or because they're jealous of you or because they want your money? It doesn't make any difference. Your life is over with the same. And you have so found.
I say to you please, ladies and gentlemen, you
have drawn so many inferences from what you've heard during this four weeks, I ask you not to draw another inference when there's no evidence to support it. Don't believe that Ronnie Kimble participated in this thing for pecuniary gain, because it doesn't tell the truth. It's not the answer.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we have a trial like this and you have to make choices, then at some point it looks like you're unable to believe certain witnesses. Or that you placed more value in some testimony than in others. And indeed, that's your job, and you were charged to do that, and you did it. But I ask you when you look back over the evidence in this case to think about what we really know about Ronnie Kimble.
Okay. Number one, we know he committed first-degree murder. And that is totally and completely inexcusable. But why and how?
This kid wasn't a bad kid. He was only 23 years of age when this happened. And at that point in time he was a good marine. You want medals to show he was a good marine, or do you want the people who knew him? He was a good marine. It doesn't help us to understand it at all, but let's face it, he was a good marine.
Those ladies and gentlemen who largely belong to Monnett Road came in here and talked about him. In
glowing terms. They're not liars. They're not. Just like you're not. They didn't come here to deceive you. They didn't come here to get you to abandon your principles and lighten up. They came here because they love that boy. And I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, you will never forget this month you've spent in Superior Court in Greensboro, and the case you had to judge, and those people will never forget it either. And it will either be a very long time or never until any of us understands how a crime like this could happen and a boy like that be an integral part of it.
This case is hard. It would be easy if you had somebody with no value as a human being who had done this horrible crime. But you don't have the luxury of that. We have a far more troubling thing to think about. How could a kid who was a good role model for younger kids, a kid who was ambitious and energetic, how could he do a thing like this?
So, ladies and gentlemen, the -- some of these mitigating factors that Mr. Lloyd and I have asked you to consider and that the Judge will allow you to consider maybe do have some bearing.
I remember when Ronnie Kimble was being questioned about his military record and whether or not he was trying to get them to give him some kind of
disability or to get out of the military. And he was reading some of this stuff. Did you see the way he had to mouth the words? Did you see the way his eyes moved staccato from word to word? That's not the normal way that experienced adults read.
You don't have to have a -- you don't have to have a psychologist in here or a bunch of test results to know that it's true that he has some sort of learning disability. You don't need anybody to prove that to you.
It doesn't excuse murder in any way, shape, or form, but it may lend a little bit of believability to the possibility that he's got an impulsive side to his nature, or that he really does have a little bit of trouble foreseeing the consequences of things. Because how else could a nice young man who had never committed a crime in his life do this horrible crime? What power did the person who wanted this crime done have over the guy that you have determined did it? I don't know.
Because I was focusing on something else. And it's too late. I've made my pitch.
Ladies and gentlemen, when you were being chosen for this job, each of you said that you would -- there could be circumstances where you would impose the death penalty. But there would also be circumstances where
you would not. And you knew and you said, each of you, that every crime can be different and the punishment is something to be determined by the jury after all of the evidence is heard. And there is no crime that requires the imposition of the death penalty, nor is there a situation where the death penalty can't be imposed. It has to just be rationally considered.
So there is some order of magnitude in these things. And in the order of magnitude, we have a very good example of somebody who is worse than Ronnie Kimble.
MR. PANOSH: We object.
MR. HATFIELD: And the
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. HATFIELD: -- facts that you have before you of the motive for the crime -- because ladies and gentlemen, a crime begins with an idea. An evil and unacceptable and immoral idea. And in this case, the idea began with Ted. He is the one who loaded up his spouse with insurance benefits that he thought would accrue to him. He married a woman who already owned a house and then did everything he could to increase the insurance coverage on that house. She already had life insurance, and he did everything he could to get her to take more life insurance.
Not only did Ronnie Kimble tell you that he knew nothing about his sister-in-law and his brother's business affairs and investments and life insurance commitments, but there's also no proof that he knew anything about that stuff. That was Ted's doing. It was Ted who had the weapons. It was Ted who had the silencers in his office. It was Ted who collected the literature about that kind of thing. It was Ted who has demonstrated to the whole world that he will steal, if necessary, to make money, and intimidate his cohorts, if necessary, to try to discourage them from telling the police the truth. In the order of magnitude, Ted Kimble is more responsible --
MR. PANOSH: We object.
THE COURT: Sustained. Disregard that, members of the jury.
MR. HATFIELD: But for -- but for Ted Kimble, Patricia Kimble would be alive today.
Ladies and gentlemen, these things that are called nonstatutory mitigating factors that you're going to be allowed to think about tell a story, and it's a very troubling story. Because what they show is that based upon the evidence in this case, there are a dozen or more aspects of Ronnie Kimble's life which would have made anyone conclude that he was a worthwhile person.
But still this crime occurred. So you've been told that yes, you should consider each of those mitigating factors, but that when you weigh them you should disregard them.
I say to you that you should just do the opposite. You should consider them and you should weigh them and you should find that, as imperfect and regrettable as this life is -- and by that, as I point over my shoulder, of course, I mean Ronnie Kimble -- that our reverence for life and our abhorrence of deliberate murder, whether it be done by the State or by an individual, justifies his living the remainder of his days in a masonry and steel box somewhere in this state where he can think about what he did, but where he can also face his God as he understands his God to be, and to try to work this thing out. He's just a kid. If he's strapped in that gurney that was mentioned to you a few minutes ago in another two or three years after his appeals have run, he won't know what's going on. He won't have had time to be like some of us and ponder these things more profoundly.
We don't excuse it. We condemn it. But we also love life. And we hope that such crimes as this will never happen again. Although, our experience tells us that they probably will and that other juries will have
to sit at other times. A jury will have to sit upon Ted's case at some point, and hopefully they will do whatever the right thing is based upon their perception of the evidence at that time. I dare say their job will not be harder than yours, ladies and gentlemen, because I think it will be easier for them to decide what to do.
Thank you very much.
Published August 15, 2006. Report broken links or other problems.
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