Poitra Trial: “The Right Thing to Do”

The first of three trials are now underway in the shooting death of Robert Ernst.
The first of three trials are now underway in the shooting death of Robert Ernst.

The final witness to be called Tuesday morning was Kendra Smith. She confirmed the close relationship – referring to him like a “little brother” -- with Junior. Her testimony was fairly involved and a very emotional one.

Confirming McDonald's testimony, and also confirming that she'd recorded her last phone call and played it for DCI agents. Establishing that, Matt Redle then played the recording, on which is only heard Junior's comments. The jury heard him say “I didn't shoot the gun; I was there...no we didn't tie that old lady up, either... if anything, I'm going to go down for this, I don't care... and I could still get a murder charge... promise me you won't say nothing, please.... I love you, too.... come out here so I can talk to you, 'cuz I'm still freaking out about it...”

While this played, Kendra broke down on the stand, but bravely continued her testimony. On cross examination, Vaughn Neubauer asked her if she knew about Junior's mental health issues and what he acted like on and off medication. She testified that two days before the shooting, Junior had called her saying he wanted to kill himself; she told him to come to her house, and saw that he'd cut up his chest using a broken bottle. She told him to go to the hospital, which he did.

Kendra said that she could always tell when he was not taking his medication, and when he got out of the hospital, his demeanor seemed “off”. She said he appeared to be “on something...acting crazy” the entire day.

On re-direct, Redle, noting how difficult it was for her to testify, asked her why she came forward to the police, knowing she'd hurt somebody she loved. She told him “I was going to hurt a lot of 'somebody's' I love, but it was the right thing to do.”

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