It will be up the jury to decide which man was lying.
Two eyewitnesses to the killing of a Georgia tourist provided starkly conflicting testimony Friday about what happened in a Garberville alley on July 18, 2015.
Both Kenneth “Kenny” Hunt and Reginald “Green Man” Newlin are among a number of people who frequented the town square in Garberville. Both testified they saw murder suspect William Lamar Hinson hit Khanh Lam over the head with a piece of wood.
And that’s where the similarities end.
Hunt says Hinson struck Lam in self-defense when the enraged Lam charged at him “like a bull.” Newlin says Lam was lying face-down over a guard rail when Hinson, in a “golf club-like swing,” hit the fallen man on the back and then the head. Lam died later from his injuries.
Lam, for reasons so far unexplained, had started to take a little girl out of the back of a van parked near the town square. He was punching the screaming woman who was trying to stop him. A group of people pursued Lam, but what happened before the fatal blow is in dispute.
Hunt, under questioning by Hinson’s attorney, Public Defender Marek Reavis, said Lam was in a rage and charged Hinson.
“Mr. Hinson was attempting to defend himself?” Reavis asked.
“Yes, I do believe.”
Hunt then spontaneously said: “As messed up as this situation is, I don’t think it’s worth a life sentence.”
He said he personally might have chosen to hit Lam in the kneecap, “because people can’t walk without their legs.”
On re-direct examination by Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, Hunt
became annoyed when asked about times and distances during the incident.
He wasn’t packing a watch or a measuring tape, he said, and the
questioning “is starting to get on my nerves.”
Hunt said Hinson first struck Lam in the ribs, and “that didn’t stop him one bit. He kept charging like a bull.”
Newlin, known as Green Man because he usually dresses in green, told a very different story. He started out his testimony saying he was trying to be very careful to tell the truth, because Hinson’s life “is in my hands.”
What he remembers is that Hinson “picked up a board and hit the gentleman in the head.”
At the time, Newlin testified, Lam was lying on the ground. He later
clarified that to say Lam was draped face-down over a guardrail.
At the time, Newlin said, Ray Preschern was holding Lam down while
another man punched him in the face. This contradicts Preschern, who
admits he fought with Lam and knocked him out, but says he then started
looking for his glasses and didn’t see Lam get hit on the head.
Preschern implies, but never actually says, that Hinson was the one who
delivered the fatal blow.
Newlin testified he was horrified by what he saw.
“I yelled ’Stop!” really, really loud, because I was concerned. The kid
(Lam) was being a little overzealous, but this was a vigilante act. It
was totally unnecessary..”
Rees asked whether he believed Hinson had struck Lam on the back a
couple of times before hitting his head. Newlin said he believes so, but
his current memory of the event is just the golf-swing blow.
“The people at the autopsy will have to tell the rest,” Newlin said. “I’m sure he’s got marks on him.”
Rees pointed out that when shown a photo lineup that included Hinson, he didn’t pick him out. Newlin was surprised and said he had no explanation.
Later, he acknowledged he’s “not a memory man,” and in fact has so much trouble with long-term memory he’s been unable to hold a steady job.
He does remember, though, that Preschern and at least one other person were holding Lam down when Hinson hit him with the wood. He also recalls that later, back on the town square, Hinson said “We got him.”
Newlin’s opinion of both Preschern and Hinson is they are “outstanding
people, wonderful people who just got caught up in something.”
Before he heard, a week or two after the killing, that Lam had died,
Newlin thought the incident was not a big deal, just a basic fight.“At the time it appeared to be normal street justice,” he said.
Hinson, dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and tie, confers often with
his attorney and takes a lot of notes. He is in custody on $1.1 million
Testimony was expected to resume Monday morning before Judge Larry Killoran, with Newlin back on the stand. He said he was going to need some bus money.
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