Jury says Fern Street resident not guilty of murder in 2015 shooting

Defendant convicted of firearm offense

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 10, 2016




An Oakland County Circuit Court jury found Royal Oak resident Kirk Leach not guilty of the murder of 28-year-old Kenith Walter inside Leach’s Fern Street home in October 2015.

The jury reached the unanimous decision the afternoon of June 9, finding Leach not guilty on a count of open murder, which carried a potential sentence of life in prison.

The jury did find Leach guilty of count two, possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, which carries a sentence of two years in prison.

Defense attorney Arnold Weiner immediately moved for Leach’s bond to to be reduced.

“He’s been incarcerated since Oct. 26,” Weiner said to the judge.

The request was denied by Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris. Langford Morris said the firearm conviction requires a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. The sentencing date was set for July 7.

Weiner celebrated the victory and was pleased his client’s side of the story was told in court, which Weiner believed all along was a case of self-defense.

The verdict came after three days of deliberations, including a note to the judge stating the equal number of men and women were a hung jury.

After instructions for how to proceed from Langford-Morris, the verdict was reached.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Royal Oak Police Department Criminal Investigations Division Lt. David Clemens.

Calls by the Review to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Hutson were not returned.

Clemens said police stand by the open murder charge, which is a more generalized murder charge that includes non-premeditated killing. As of press time, Clemens was waiting for clarification on how the jury found Leach guilty of count two.

Before the verdict was read in court, Weiner asked for a mistrial after a note had been sent to the judge stating that a juror, while at home, had re-created a knife scenario, as described by a law enforcement witness for the prosecution.

Langford-Morris said a re-creation of events or home experiment is in violation of strict orders to rely only on what transpires in the courtroom. Jurors are not allowed to re-create scenarios, visit the crime scene or conduct research on their own, among other instructions.

Weiner’s request for a mistrial was denied.

“I am not inclined to call a mistrial at this juncture,” Langford Morris said June 9 in the courtroom.

The jurors instead were called back into the courtroom and asked whether or not the note or discussions of the home experiment played a role in each juror’s decision.  

After it was determined the verdict was reached only by what transpired during the trial, the verdict was accepted by the court.

Weiner said Walter’s large physical size and criminal background made Leach fear for his life and the life of his sister, who was in the home at the time of the shooting. According to court documents, Maria Leach was dating Walter.

According to court documents, Kirk Leach, then 27, and Walter had been hanging out drinking earlier in the day Oct. 25. Kirk Leach’s girlfriend, Misty Williams, testified they had seemed to be getting along earlier in the day. Williams also was in the house at the time of the shooting.

According to court documents, later that night, after Kirk Leach and Williams went to bed, Maria Leach knocked on her brother’s door asking for help.

Weiner said that Walter was verbally threatening Maria Leach and refused to leave the house, so she needed her brother’s help to get Walter out. According to testimony, Kirk Leach grabbed his legally registered 9 mm gun and went into the hallway.

Weiner said Walter became aggressive and testimony showed Kirk Leach shot into the floor as a warning. Weiner said Walter did not leave, but instead grabbed a knife before his client shot in self defense. Testimony indicated about four shots were fired; Weiner said his client did not empty his gun.

Following the shooting, 911 was not called, but instead Maria Leach drove Walter to the Beaumont Hospital emergency room, where physicians called police.

According to court documents, Kirk Leach left the home with Williams and ended up at a house in Garden City, where he dropped the gun in a sewer.

According to court documents, after Williams was arrested, she led police to the weapon and Kirk Leach was arrested later that day.

At the time of arrest, Royal Oak Police Department Detective Donald Van Ochten said in district court last year, Kirk Leach was found in the 6100 block of Henry Ruff in Garden City after the ROPD Criminal Investigations Division identified him as a suspect; Leach was in custody approximately 12 hours after the department was notified that Walter had been brought to Beaumont Hospital at about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 26 with multiple gunshot wounds.

“During the course of the subsequent investigation, it was determined that the defendant — Kirk David Leach — did at 2802 Fern Street in the city of Royal Oak intentionally shoot and kill Kenith Tyrann Walter,” Van Ochten said last year. He said that the weapon used in the shooting was recovered during the investigation and that an autopsy found the cause of death was homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds and complications from gunshot wounds.

According to police, Leach has a misdemeanor record including prior convictions for possession of marijuana, retail fraud, driving while license suspended, driving without a license and possession of open intoxicants in a motor vehicle.

According to Michigan Department of Corrections records, Walter had been released from prison in January 2015 after he served six years for first-degree home invasion.

Weiner said his client has put the Royal Oak home up for sale and is looking forward to moving on with his life.