Daily Reporter staff reports
GREENFIELD — A lie-detector test states Damian Coleman, who is standing trial for murder, told the truth when he denied involvement in the slaying, according to polygraph exam results read in open court Friday.
But it’s testimony the jury weighing the case against Coleman will never hear. Prosecutors and Coleman’s defense attorney never penned an agreement stating the results would be admitted, what questions would be asked and what examiner would be used; so the 12-member jury was removed from the courtroom.
Coleman, who is accused of shooting Shannon Kitchens of McCordsville during a drug deal, said he took the test assuming it would be admitted in his trial.
But Prosecutor Brent Eaton told the Daily Reporter polygraph tests “aren’t scientifically reliable enough” to be considered as evidence by a jury.
Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver, who has overseen the proceedings since they began Tuesday, allowed Coleman to read the report into the record so it could be considered by an appeals court should Coleman be convicted.
With the jury absent from the courtroom, Coleman took the witness stand, though he was not under oath, while he and his attorney read the polygraph examiner’s report aloud.
According to the testimony, during a polygraph test, the examiner asked Coleman a series of questions: Did you supply the gun used to shoot Kitchens? Were you present when Kitchens was shot? Did you shoot Kitchens?
To every question, Coleman answered, “No.” The examiner ruled Coleman told the truth and showed no signs of emotional stress, according to testimony.
Experts have long questioned the accuracy of polygraph tests. The test measures physiological reactions — including heart rate, blood pressure and breathing patterns — which can be affected when a person who is nervous, causing inconclusive results even if they are being truthful, according to the American Psychological Association. Similarly, a person who feels calm while lying can pass a test, the association states.
All week, prosecutors have worked to convince a jury that Coleman robbed and murdered Kitchens during a drug deal last spring; his body was dumped in the 3300 block of West County Road 500N on March 1.
Investigators said they believe Kitchens was shot while trying to buy cocaine from Coleman during a drug deal orchestrated by Coleman’s co-defendant, Shawn Hammons.
Kitchens’ body was found later that day by a passerby who spotted it and called police; Hammons admitted that’s where he left the body, saying he panicked after Coleman shot him, officials said.
Coleman faces two counts of murder in the slaying; a Level 3 felony count of attempt to commit robbery while armed; a Level 3 felony count of attempt to deal cocaine; and a Level 3 felony count of conspiracy to deal cocaine. Hammons recently took a plea deal on lesser charges in exchange for testifying against Coleman.
After the state rested its case Friday afternoon, the defense worked to convince jurors Hammons had a motive to kill Kitchens.
Sorrell called Hammons to the witness stand for a second time, this time questioning him Hammons about the a promissory note he and Kitchens penned April 29 — the day before Kitchens was shot.
The agreement stated that Hammons would borrow about $400 from Kitchens; he’d repay the money within a few days and give Kitchens an extra $100 for the trouble.
But Coleman’s behavior suggests he knew about the crime even before the body had been discovered, police said.
Two hours after police say they believe Kitchens was killed, Coleman called an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department non-emergency dispatch number and asked whether a shooting had been reported, said Hancock County Sheriff’s Department Detective Sgt. Bridget Foy, the lead investigator in the case.
The jury listened to a recording of the call, in which a voice police say belongs to Coleman asked about reports of a shooting, saying a friend heard something had happened near 8101 Pendleton Pike, not far from the Check ‘n Go where Hammons admitted to police he took Kitchens to cash his disability check before the drug deal.
After dumping Kitchens’ body, Hammons left his sport-utility vehicle in a friend’s driveway and caught a ride out of town, police said.
Carol Skaggs of Fortville, a former girlfriend of the man, testified Hammons was crying and seemed intoxicated around 6 p.m. that evening, when she gave him a ride to Anderson.
“He said somebody had got hurt,” Skaggs said. “He didn’t say where.”
Skaggs said she talked to police twice during the investigation but didn’t tell them the truth until the second time they talked. At first, she said when she got home, Hammons’ vehicle was in her driveway; later, she told police she had been home when Hammons arrived, pale and crying.
Hammons spent the evening of March 1 at the house of Paul’s neighbor, Toby Chandler. Chandler told the jury Hammons had blood on his hands and seemed “not in his right mind.”
Closing arguments, which are open to the public, are scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in Hancock Circuit Court.