COLUMBIA — In more than four hours of testimony Thursday, Lorenzo Ladiner told the jury he drove a car as Kristopher Prince fired a rifle at another vehicle, killing a Columbia teen. The jury heard more than 12 hours of testimony in the murder trial of Prince in Boone County Circuit Court.
Because the trial proceedings lasted until about 9 p.m., the court ordered dinner from Bambino's Italian Cafe for the jury. When the delivery arrived, bailiffs noticed messages such as "He's not guilty!" written across the plastic foam lids of the food's containers.
The message caused the jury to go hungry as Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane decided the messages might influence its decision.
In his testimony, Ladiner, now 22 and a witness called by the prosecution, said he never expected Prince to fire the KSK assault rifle that killed 17-year-old Tedarrian Robinson.
Shortly before 3 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2007, four or five shots were fired near the intersection of Bearfield Road and Grindstone Parkway at a vehicle driven by Larry McBride and carrying Robinson and Carlos Dudley. One of the bullets traveled through the car's trunk, back seat and headrest before striking Robinson on the left side of his neck. Robinson was later pronounced dead at University Hospital.
Ladiner said his intention that afternoon was only to scare and possibly fight McBride, who was driving the car in which Robinson was shot. Ladiner and McBride had an ongoing feud. Two days before Robinson's death, Ladiner had shot the rifle at McBride's cars and house.
Prince, now 19, is charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action in the case.
The prosecution said Thursday that it was Prince who was responsible for escalating the feud between Ladiner and McBride on the day of Robinson's death. Ladiner testified that on April 18, McBride drove his car to Ladiner's house on Prescott Drive and started arguing with both Prince and Ladiner. When McBride drove away, Ladiner asked Prince to watch the house while he drove after McBride. Instead, Prince yelled "Where's the gun?" and then retrieved the rifle from Ladiner's house and got in the car with him, Ladiner testified. Just minutes later Robinson was shot.
Prince's attorney Michael Byrne cross-examined Ladiner, bluntly telling him, "You are a murderer."
Byrne argued that it was Ladiner who had the motivation to shoot at McBride's car and then lie about it. He said Ladiner had changed his story a number of times - when he was first interviewed by Columbia Police, his deposition and his testimony in court.
In the early morning of April 17, Ladiner said he drove to McBride's residence and shot at his house and cars.
"I went over there to send a message," Ladiner testified.
Byrne said this showed Ladiner was not afraid to use the weapon recklessly and that it was Ladiner who had the feud with McBride.
Byrne also said Ladiner has a strong incentive to lie to the jury because of a deal he has made with the prosecution in exchange for his testimony against Prince. Ladiner pleaded guilty following the shooting to acting in concert to felony murder and unlawful use of weapon for shooting at McBride's residence. In exchange for his testimony, Ladiner would get reduced sentences on both charges: 20 years for the accessory murder charge and 15 years for the shooting to be served concurrently, Byrne said.
"You are scared of facing the same charges that Kris Prince is now charged with," Byrne said to Ladiner.
Earlier in the day, Nicholas Gerhart, a criminalist with the Missouri State Highway Patrol called by the prosecution, testified that Prince had a significant amount of gun-shot residue on his hands after the shooting.
Although Gerhart said he could not definitively determine that Prince was the shooter, he told the jury that tests he conducted found much more residue on the hands of Prince than on Ladiner.
Byrne said that the residue tests could not differentiate between someone who fired the weapon and someone who just held it. He said another explanation could be that Ladiner washed his hands following the shooting and Prince did not. He also pointed out that the crime lab did not test several pieces of clothing taken from Prince and Ladiner on the day of the shooting.
Columbia Police officer Tim Giger, who collected the gunshot residue from both Prince and Ladiner shortly after the shooting, told the jury that Ladiner willingly submitted to the test, but Prince would not at first. Giger said Prince eventually submitted to the test after Giger threatened to take it by force.
The prosecution rested Thursday evening and the defense called several witnesses, though Prince was not among them. Byrne said Prince could testify on Friday. Judge Crane told the jury he expects the trial to conclude Friday.