After deliberating for five hours on Friday, jurors in the Lawrence Tatum, Jr. trial found Tatum guilty of the murder of Paul Nathaniel Kennedy, 28, of Westwood.
Presiding judge, the honorable Mark Calhoun, set the sentencing hearing for Nov. 21.
Tatum’s defense attorney, Stanley Sokolowski, presented strong arguments Thursday that law enforcement discounted the possibility that another man, Shawn Smith, murdered, or aided in the murder, even though evidence showed he possessed the gun, hid it after the murder, and laid low until he was certain Kennedy was dead.
Jurors, however, were convinced by the prosecution that the original indictment for murder and Shawn Smith’s testimony of the events were essentially true.
“Justice prevailed in this murder trial,” Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell told the Herald-Press Friday. “Scott and Cari did an excellent job presenting the evidence. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Kennedy’s family.”
Kennedy's family expressed relief.
“Yes, I’m happy – doesn’t my face show it?” said Eloise Barrett, Kennedy’s grandmother. Her face beamed with joy after hearing the jury’s decision. “I knew God would handle it, so I just gave it to Him.”
Eloise was the only family member present when the verdict was announced.
She was later joined by her son, Bruce Barrett, Kennedy’s uncle.
“I’m a lot better now,” said Bruce, who was working at his restaurant, Shep’s, when the verdict came down. “I’m happy it’s over and I’m happy with the verdict that we received, but I still have questions as to what really happened.”
On Wednesday, Smith provided chilling eyewitness testimony of Tatum and Kennedy arguing in the front yard of Kennedy's house. At one point, Smith said, Tatum pulled a gun from his jacket and held it on Kennedy, whom Smith called “PK.”
“If you're gonna do it, do it,” Smith said Kennedy told Tatum. Tatum then shot him.
With conflicting testimony and little hard physical evidence, little seemed certain in the case, except that Kennedy was gunned down in his front yard in the 500 block of West Point Tap, apparently over a cell phone, on Oct. 3, 2016.
The jury – made up of three African Americans – one female and two males – one Asian male, six white females, and two white males – started to deliberate at 3 p.m. Thursday and came to their decision by 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
Assistant District Attorney Holden and Cari Warner were the prosecuting attorneys for this case.
Various members of Kennedy's close-knit family, including Bruce’s son, Bruce, Jr., and Eloise’s daughter had been present for the trial throughout the week.