GREENFIELD — His shouts cut through the quiet, harsh and shocking. Reverberating off the stone walls of the courtroom and causing everyone there to stir.
As a judge read the jury’s verdict — guilty of all charges — Damian Coleman jumped from his seat in anger. At the conclusion of five days of testimony, 12 Hancock County residents found Coleman, 40, of Indianapolis, guilty of murdering 55-year-old McCordsville native Shannon Kitchens during a drug deal, a judge announced Monday evening.
“I’m done,” Coleman shouted over and over, ignoring the judge’s and his own family members’ attempts to calm him. The jury was quickly ushered from the room, looks of surprise and fear on some of their faces.
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Throughout the five-day trial in Hancock Circuit Court, prosecutors worked to prove Coleman shot Kitchens during a drug deal orchestrated by Kitchens’ friend, Shawn Hammons; Hammons, who recently took a plea deal in the case, then dumped Kitchens’ body along a rural road in Hancock County.
A passerby called 911 on March 1 after spotting Kitchens’ body in the 3300 block of West County Road 500N. Kitchens’ family members pointed them to Hammons, who admitted to dumping Kitchens’ body but said it was Coleman who shot and killed his friend, according to testimony heard throughout the trial.
Jurors spent more than four hours deliberating before deciding Coleman was guilty of two counts of murder; 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.
Cries of relief and despair rang out simultaneously as Judge Richard Culver read the jury’s verdict aloud to a gallery filled with Coleman’s and Kitchens’ friends and family members.
For Kitchens’ relatives, the verdict meant some justice for the father of five whose family has been in limbo for months.
“We each needed this answer,” Jason Kitchens, Shannon Kitchens’ son, said after the verdict was announced. “This is just a bit of closure.”
Coleman’s attorney, Randy Sorrell of Fortville, had hoped reasonable doubt would free his client; he started his final remarks to jurors Monday morning by thanking them for being attentive and asking many questions throughout the course of the trial — remarking the panel needed to ask questions so often only because the state’s story surrounding Kitchens’ death had so many loose ends.
Sorrell argued that the evidence presented showed Hammons — not Coleman — was guilty of harming Kitchens.
Hammons recently took a plea deal on lesser charges in exchange for testifying against Coleman. He pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony count of conspiracy to commit dealing cocaine; a Level 6 felony count of altering the scene of a death; and a Class A misdemeanor count of failure to report a dead body.
But prosecutors told jurors Coleman left a trail of evidence proving he was with Kitchens and Hammons on the day Kitchens was killed — including several phone calls the defendant made in the hours after the shooting.
Coleman called the non-emergency phone number for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s dispatch center a few hours after Kitchens died, Prosecutor Brent Eaton told jurors. The caller, who police identified as Coleman, was seeking information about a shooting he said happened earlier that day — a shooting no one had reported, officials testified. The call came from Coleman’s cellphone, police testified.
Coleman told emergency dispatchers the exact location of the crime hours before his co-defendant had ever named him as a suspect, Eaton told the jury. If Coleman hadn’t been involved in Kitchens’ death, he would not have known those details, Eaton said.
A sentencing date for Coleman has not yet been set.
As some of Kitchens’ family members exited the courtroom, Thelma Adams, the defendant’s mother, stopped them, shook their hands and told them how sorry she was for their loss.
With tears in her eyes, she said she didn’t think her son was guilty but wanted to express her condolences.
“I know my son and I truly believe he didn’t do that,” Adams said. “But they lost a brother, a father, a son.”