Twenty-four-year-old Rafael Kennedy was serving a 30-prison term for his role in the murder of Earl Capone Jackson during a 2007 robbery in Jacksonville. He was brought back to the Morgan County Jail in February for a re-trial after the Appellate Court overturned his conviction.
Kennedy requested a speedy trial last month meaning he must be tried within 120 days, if he doesn’t ask for any continuances.
It’s still not clear exactly when the 120-day countdown began, but presiding Judge David Cherry says it was sometime in February.
Kennedy decided to represent himself and vacate the appointment of specially appointed public defender Elliot Turpin yesterday because he wouldn’t be ready to try the murder trial.
Turpin says no attorney could be ready to try a murder trial in 120 days.
“It’s a murder case for one thing," says Turpin. "It's the most serious case that there is and I literally have a box full of documents, video tapes and whatnot that I would have to go through between now and then, and there just wouldn't be any way."
Judge Cherry continued the case to April 3rd. Morgan County state’s attorney Chris Reif expressed frustration during yesterday’s pre-trial conference when Kennedy presented the state with what Reif believed was incomplete discovery and jury instructions.
“I do not want the judge to exclude evidence which would have to be the option if you're going to allow someone - no attorney is allowed, in a murder case, to turn partial discovery over six days or three working days prior to a murder trial," says Reif. "The attempt at jury instructions of pulling out one instruction out of a book on communicating with witnesses on a Class 4 Felony and submitting that to me shows me how far off this individual is in being prepared for a murder trial."
Kennedy was arrested in 2007 with co-defendant Julius Washington for the shooting death of Earl Capone Jackson. Washington struggled with Jackson during the robbery, pulled a gun and a shot was fired. Kennedy also became involved with the struggle and another shot was fired.
Washington was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in 2009. Kennedy was found guilty of murder during a bench trial in 2010.
According to the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court, Kennedy appealed his conviction arguing he was not properly admonished before his bench trial as to the minimum and maximum sentence - specifically, the mandatory nature of sentencing enhancements when a firearm was involved.
If convicted, Kennedy may face a longer sentence if the 15 to 25 year enhancement is included.
It’s unknown who will prosecute the case since Reif will take over as Morgan County Judge on March 22nd and the county’s Board of Commissioners has yet to receive his letter of resignation and appoint a new state’s attorney.