When a Lancaster County jury acquitted Karlide A. Harding Jr., of second degree murder last Tuesday, recriminations against Commonwealths Attorney Robert Cunningham flew.
Cunningham and defense counsel Brent Jackson, however, are in agreement about how the case played out even though they disagree about why the jury brought back a “not guilty” verdict.
“He was innocent,” Jackson said Monday. Cunningham clearly didn’t think so.
The Commonwealth put on two witnesses to Harding’s alleged cutting of Joseph Maurice Waller on July 9 last year.
Jackson said he was able to cast doubt on the truthfulness of both.
He said Kevon Williams has a criminal record, had made inconsistent statements about the matter and admitted he was smoking marijuana at the time he allegedly saw Harding stabbing Waller.
The other witness, Walt Taylor, a co-defendant in the case who hasn’t been tried yet, also had made statements inconsistent with his trial testimony, Jackson said.
Further, Taylor’s testimony that he was holding Waller’s arm above his head while Harding stabbed him ‑ although he didn’t know he was stabbing him ‑ didn’t jibe with the medical examiner’s testimony that Waller had defensive wounds on his arm.
Cunningham pointed out that Harding admitted having stabbed Waller although he said he thought Waller had fallen against his knife.
Jackson said Harding’s knife was a box cutter with a short blade and Cunningham said it was a small knife. The medical examiner described one wound as being six inches deep.
Waller drove away from the scene of the altercation and was found dead some distance away. The medical examiner said his wounds would have allowed him to survive for some minutes, Cunningham said.
Cunningham said one witness slipped back into the courtroom after he’d had all witnesses excluded and the court barred his testimony. Cunningham, trying the case with is back to the audience, hadn’t seen the witness, but Jackson had.
Cunningham said he thought it best to simply say “the jury has spoken” and move on to trying other charges against Harding. He pointed out that the charges had been severed from the murder case on Jackson’s motion, not dropped by Cunningham as other reports have said.