I was in Louisville in 2010 when I got a call from Kenyon Meyer at Dinsmore & Shohl. He needed an expert in terminal ballistics, in gunfight dynamics, in exterior ballistics and in ammunition design and manufacture. The case involved a defendant named Laquita Townsend, who had been a “guest” in “Hotel Louisville” for over two years awaiting trial.
Over two years before, down in the rather squalid section of Louisville, in the housing projects, a large group of people (men, women and children) gathered in the night. Drugs were being openly sold, people were needling up, sexual favors were being done, and the group got louder. Hearing the commotion, Ms. Townsend opened the door of her apartment (which faced directly outdoors) to see what was happening. About that time, serious gun fire broke out, bullets literally flying everywhere. A couple bullets hit her apartment, one through the door (missing her), and she quickly shut the door and took cover.
The police responded and found a few wounded and two dead strewn about. One wounded victim was in Ms. Townsend’s apartment. Police concluded that she was the Big Mama of drug dealing and they were going to make an example of her. After a few hearings, the case was bumped up to a death penalty case. Time dragged on and the public defenders were being out classed in pre-trial. Dinsmore heard about the case and Kenyon Meyer stepped up to the plate.
I spent a couple days in the conference room at Dinsmore, studying all the shooting incident scene diagrams, photographs, the GPS cartridge case and bullet locations, and so forth. I began to think that I had not seen this many rounds fired since an infantry ambush in a combat zone. After I thought I had it figured out, I briefed Kenyon.
Specifically, no bullets were fired out from Ms. Townsend’s apartment, bullets only flew in. Further, all shooting originated at ground level (Ms. Towsend’s apartment was slightly elevated) and from all directions. The autopsies were predictably poor, the hospital records were indistinct, and the recovery of bullets and expended cartridge cases were not sufficient to even hint at who fired what at whom. Kenyon had further exculpatory evidence to the effect that Ms. Townsend did not deal drugs nor own a gun, that she was a tireless mother, working multiple jobs to support her children and keep the family unit going.
As a death penalty case the pre-trial dragged on. I had returned to Wyoming and was getting my new rifle factory into production. During this process, my beloved, Elaine Marie Alphin, suffered an upper thalamic hemorrhagic stroke which left her totally paralyzed. My insurance (Tricare, for veterans, you do not want single payer) wrote her off for palliative care only. I would not acquiesce to the death of my beloved.
I told Kenyon that I could not go to trial, that my post of duty was at Elaine’s bedside. I prepared some privileged communication to help him get ready for trial. Kenyon found an advanced hobbyist in Indianapolis. Using my communications to prep him, Kenyon got ready for trial.
Trial began and Kenyon impaneled a very good jury. The prosecution delivered a convoluted opening while Kenyon nailed it with a solid and succinct opening. As the Prosecution case in chief went on, Kenyon used my production and savaged witnesses in cross. He even elicited from multiple family members that everybody had guns but the families ran around before the police got there, picked up all the guns, and hid them.
The prosecution rested and, before Kenyon could (figuratively) open fire, they requested recess. The prosecution grabbed Kenyon and offered a felony plea deal. Kenyon replied back to the effect that I am going to put on this witness, and that witness; I am going to prove my opening statement, and I am going to whip your butt !!!
By that evening, Ms. Townsend pled to a misdemeanor, was released from the local jail, and was having supper with her children in her apartment. (Some death penalty case !!)
To say again from the Tom Hanks character in Philadelphia, “…sometimes, not often, but sometimes, you get to be part of justice being done.”.
Hats off to Ms. Townsend. She kept her sanity during nearly 4 years of local jail; and she somehow kept her family together.
Mr. R. Kenyon Meyer is now the Managing Partner of the Dinsmore & Shohl Louisville office.