Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dentist acquitted in wife's death - jury says self-defense

By Michael Hewlett Journal Reporter
Published: August 22, 2009


Although a Davie County jury ruled yesterday that Dr. Kirk Alan Turner killed his wife, Jennifer, in self-defense, his legal troubles are far from over. Turner, a Clemmons dentist, still faces a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Gwen Elizabeth Kennedy, Jennifer Turner's sister and the executor of her estate.

"We have every intention of pursuing the civil action," said David Freedman, who represents the estate in the lawsuit.

There is also an alienation-of-affection lawsuit that Jennifer Turner filed against her husband's girlfriend, Tondja Woods Colvin. That suit will also go forward, Freedman said. And the divorce that prosecutors said was the center of the murder case remains unsettled, he said.

Yesterday marked the end of Turner's monthlong murder trial, which was often emotional and high profile. The case split the Turners' children, Gilbert "Ritchie" Turner and Gwendolyn "Wendy" Elizabeth Turner, who no longer speak to each other. Ritchie Turner says he believes that his father killed his mother in self-defense. Wendy Turner doesn't speak to her father, and says she believes that he intentionally killed her mother.

The jury of eight men and four women took about seven hours over two days to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of self-defense. Prosecutors had argued that Turner slashed his wife's throat twice with a pocketknife on Sept. 12, 2007, because he was angry over the pending divorce and the lawsuit filed against Colvin.

They said that the stab wounds that cut Jennifer Turner's carotid artery and her trachea were so deep that they reached her cervical spine. Defense attorneys said that Turner killed his wife in self-defense after she stabbed him twice in the left thigh near the groin with a 7-foot, Viking-style spear.

The jury believed the defense's version. "They threw stuff against the wall to see if something would stick, and we felt nothing stuck," the jury foreman, Landon Potts, said of prosecutors.
In addition to first-degree murder, the jury also considered second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

"The jury believed he was justified in defending himself against his wife's attack, and that whatever force he used was not excessive," said Kami Chavis Simmons, an associate professor of law at Wake Forest University.

In order for the jury to find Kirk Turner guilty of first-degree murder, it had to believe that he planned to kill his wife, Simmons said, there had to be premeditation and deliberation.
The burden of proof won't be as high in the wrongful-death lawsuit, she said. "With a civil case, you have a preponderance of the evidence, which is not as rigorous a standard as beyond a reasonable doubt," she said.

Joe Cheshire, one of Turner's attorneys, argued that in the trial, prosecutors had put forth several theories about what happened. Yesterday he said that justice was served and that Turner has regained his life.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors accused Greg Smithson, the man who was with Kirk Turner the night that his wife died, of helping to stage the crime scene to make it look as though the Turners had struggled. They said that Kirk Turner had either stabbed himself or had Smithson do it. And they argued that Turner had the medical knowledge to stab himself and miss his femoral artery.

District Attorney Garry Frank said that the prosecutors' job was to look at the evidence and seek justice."We tried to do just that," he said. "I thought my prosecutors put on the relevant evidence."

Cheshire lambasted prosecutors for accusing Smithson of helping Turner cover up a crime. Smithson testified that he did not see Turner kill his wife, and that he performed CPR on Jennifer Turner.

"That was false and wrong and should never have been made," Cheshire said. "This verdict completely exonerates a man who did everything to save Jennifer Turner's life."

Frank said that there is not enough evidence to charge Smithson.

After the verdict was read, Turner hugged his attorneys and his supporters.

Wendy Turner cried as she left the courtroom with her uncle, Rick Wittwer. As TV cameras trailed her out of the courthouse, she didn't comment. Later in the day, she distributed a statement saying that the verdict was a "distinct failure of justice."

"The women of Davie County should be scared," she said. "Let us not forget this woman, Jennifer Turner." Her father gave a brief statement after the hearing. He thanked God and the jury. When asked if there was anything he wanted to say about his daughter, he said, "She's a great girl," and then walked back into the courtroom.


Anonymous said...

Shameful and wrong. This man killed his wife. Even if the wife DID stab him in the leg, does fatally slicing her throat back and forth with precision accomodate a leg injury? NO He did not want to pay the steep alimony, also his GF suit. I hope he suffers every day of his life.

Don said...

He should take a polygraph for his daughter's sake to convince her of his self-defense theory...

Don said...

He should take a polygraph for his daughter's sake to try to prove his self-defense claim...

itsyoureternalsoul said...

I cannot see anybody but Kirk with EVERYTHING to lose here! Jennifer was going to be able to make it on what she stood to win. She did not seem like the type or have enough motive to attack the alimony payer. I believe the dentist has gotten away with murder. He did not call anybody. Smithson did.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone suggested his accomplice may have stabbed him after he administered a local anesthetic to his own leg?