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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Monroe County man acquitted in sword death

MONROE - James Trampas Read walked out of the Monroe County Courthouse a free man yesterday afternoon, a little over 10 months after he stabbed a friend in the back with a 3-foot-long Samurai sword, killing him to stop an assault on his twin brother.

A seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for a day and a half before finding Mr. Read, 29, of Newport not guilty in the Oct. 12, 2002, death of Jeffery Kenney, 25, of Monroe in the mobile home Mr. Read shared with his brother, Travis.

Circuit Court Judge Michael LaBeau's courtroom - packed with family members of both the victim and his assailant - was mostly silent except for the muffled sound of several people sobbing when the verdict was read about 1 p.m.

Moments later, a relative of Mr. Kenney's was shouting expletives in the courthouse annex, yelling, ``How could this happen?''

Mr. Read admitted to detectives early on and maintained throughout his trial that he had stabbed Mr. Kenney with the sword that morning after nearly a full day and night of drinking and fighting with Mr. Kenney.

He had told investigators - and later the jury - that he stabbed the former all-star running back at Jefferson High School because Mr. Kenney had his brother pinned to their kitchen floor and was choking him. He said he picked up a sword from another room and plunged it into Mr. Kenney's back to save his brother's life.

Prosecutor John Marunick had argued that other, less lethal means of stopping Mr. Kenney's attack on Travis Read were available. There were several dozen knives and guns throughout the home, as well as a tire iron.

Jury members, who did not comment after their verdict was announced, apparently agreed with the argument of Mr. Read's attorney, James Davies, that his client acted out of self-defense and for the welfare of his brother against a much larger aggressor. Jury members had requested that the testimony of both brothers be replayed for them yesterday morning before they reached their verdict.

Monroe County Prosecutor Mike Weipert said he had no regrets about pursuing the open murder case against Mr. Read and not seeking a plea bargain in the matter. Mr. Read had been incarcerated in the Monroe County jail awaiting trial since he was arrested the morning of the incident.

``I felt we had to [file charges] in this case, but this is the way the system works,'' Mr. Weipert said. ``The jury apparently believed that it was self-defense, and that he didn't have a choice.''

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