- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The jury in an attempted murder trial last week took only a few hours to find defendant Kindall Devone Neale guilty on all counts.
Neale, 32, stood trial for three counts of attempted second-degree murder and a variety of weapons and assault charges that stemmed from a robbery that went sour in Indian Head last spring. Neale, a Waldorf resident, also faced witness intimidation charges as a result of several calls he made from the Charles County jail.
Before the jury was seated to hear closing arguments and receive their instructions Thursday, Neale surprised the courtroom when he told Circuit Judge Helen I. Harrington that he wished to fire his lawyer, public defender Michael Beach. Harrington advised Neale that at that point in the trial, relieving himself of his lawyer would be unwise and any lawyer willing to step in on his behalf so late in the game would be “foolish” to do so. Neale was irate in arguing his point, saying Beach had lied to him, but ultimately acquiesced and retained the public defender’s services.
In his closing argument, Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis J. Granados took the time to walk the jury through the evidence against Neale and argued that the physical evidence against him corroborated everything he stood accused of.
“There are things we can take to the bank because we have ... evidence that shows it’s true,” Granados said.
Granados also pointed to how the week before the trial, Neale called his girlfriend, Barbara Luana Allen, to try and discourage her from testifying at the trial. Allen had served as a conduit between Neale and another man whom he wanted to have visit one of the three men he attempted to rob and shoot and was going to take the stand to testify about that call. Granados read from a transcript of the more recent incriminating call.
“If she don’t testify I can come home next Friday. ... Tell her not to do that [expletive],” Neale said in the call.
“Why is he trying so hard?” Granados asked of the phone calls and Neale. “She’s the only person Mr. Neale gave a truthful statement to. He knows what he did. ... He knows he’s guilty.”
When speaking of how Neale tried denying that he knew one of the victims, Granados pointed to how he’d referred to him by a nickname all along, indicating familiarity and disproving his lie.
Granados also addressed “Pooh Bear,” the imaginary man Neale invented to implicate in place of himself. Neale said he’d loaned “Pooh Bear” his car that evening, and it was “Pooh Bear” who owned the gun found in the King George, Va., apartment Neale was arrested in after the May 30 armed robbery.
“Isn’t that a cute coincidence,” Granados asked. “‘Pooh Bear’ is a figment of Mr. Neale’s imagination. ... Who is ‘Pooh Bear?’ He’s sitting right there.”
Had it not been for one of the men Neale robbed having a gun, things would have been much different, Granados said.
“Mr. Neale was trying to do a lot more than rob them, a lot more than just scare them,” Granados said. “He was firing at the car, and that’s what makes him guilty of attempted second-degree murder. This case is about a lot more than the word of [the victim with the gun]. .. What this case rises and falls upon is forensic evidence. ... The only reasonable conclusion is to find him guilty.”
In Beach’s closing argument, he said Neale had not tried to rob or shoot anyone, just as he had in his opening argument. Beach said the state “ran with a tall tale” the victims invented to try and save themselves: Along with two guns, officers found a significant amount of marijuana one of the victims possessed at the scene of the crime, and by their own admission, they had been in the car smoking pot when Neale approached the driver’s side and pointed a gun at them.
Beach questioned why the victim had a gun in the first place and said it indicated the three had ultimately planned a robbery of their own, using a drug sale as a lure but never got to execute it because Neale got to them first.
“You don’t have [guns] if you’re just sitting there smoking weed,” Beach said. “They’re trying to flip the script after their robbery went bad and make the whole thing go away.”
Beach later said the state is making “mountains out of a bunch of molehills” and called evidence pictures from the scenes “staged.” He then addressed Neale’s jailhouse phone calls.
“Those calls last week are .. the acts of a man who has lost faith in the justice system. He’s probably lost faith in me, but I haven’t lost faith in you,” Beach told the jury. “At the end of the day, it’s all up to you. I could jump up and down and tell you he’s an innocent man because he is.”
As a parting note, Beach constructed a hypothetical scenario and asked the jury to consider if the defendants — two of whom are brothers — would be trustworthy enough to baby-sit their children, as a means of underscoring some of their more dubious activities, a tactic Granados took issue with.
“He wants you to think with your heart and not with your head,” Granados said of Beach, calling his robbery theory “fanciful speculation” and a “convoluted, complex story.”
“If [Neale] is this innocent man who’s so scared of what the justice system is going to do to him, why tell lie after lie after lie?” Granados said. “I don’t know about you, but I think witness tampering is pretty solid evidence of a guilty conscience. Mr. Neale is practically screaming. ... The evidence is overwhelming. Don’t be swayed by sympathy.”
Neale is scheduled for sentencing July 14.