By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: February 7, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.
Mistrial declared in January, ending first trial in hung jury
DINWIDDIE – Days after a mistrial was declared in the high-profile murder trial of a Dinwiddie County teenager allegedly at the hands of a relative, prosecutors are moving forward with retrying the case as hearing have been set for next month.
According to court records, the case against Alberta native Anton Coleman, the man charged with second-degree murder for allegedly murdering 16-year-old Dinwiddie teenager Ke’Asia Adkins in June of 2018, will continue as a judge last week found enough grounds to move forward with having the case to go trial.
While a date has not been set for Coleman’s second trial, state judicial records show a pair of hearing set for February in Dinwiddie County Circuit Court, including a Feb. 28 bond hearing for Coleman, who has been charged in connection with Adkins’ murder since her body was found a short distance from her home near U.S. Route 1 in late June of 2018.
In addition, a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for March 27.
Since the Jan. 10 hung jury, local prosecutors, led by Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill have remained quiet and have not responded to any requests for comment on the status of the case and questions regarding the charging of Coleman and subsequent reduction of said charges as shown in court records. Last summer, the court granted a defense motion for a gag order to be placed on the case.
Due to that order, one of the lingering questions of the Commonwealth’s prosecution of the case leading into this month’s trial – the amendment of charges against Coleman – remains unanswered.
When Adkins’ body was found on June 29, 2018, authorities initially arrested him on a lone charge of abduction, with Baskervill telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Coleman “is the target of our active and ongoing investigation into crimes committed against Ms. Adkins, including our prime suspect for the murder.”
Several weeks later, a Dinwiddie grand jury indicted Coleman first-degree murder and felony abduction with the intent to defile. The indictments came alongside three other murder indictments levied against a trio charged in connection with the unrelated murder of Dinwiddie businessman Umar Salaam, who was slain days earlier outside his U.S. Route 1 and Ritchie Avenue business, marking a particularly violent period in the county during that summer.
After the indictments were handed down, Baskervill said her office was ready to seek justice for the families of both victims and the community-at-large.
“The killings of Ke’Asia Adkins and Umar Salaam were horrible and tragic, causing senseless loss and profound heartbreak. Certainly I speak for investigators as well in continuing to extend heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of the victims,” Baskervill said in July 2018. “But we will not let our community be degraded or undermined by violence and destruction. Thus my response, and that of my office, and that of county law enforcement, all on behalf of the Commonwealth and the community, is to seek truth and pursue justice, to keep the community safe and do so [with] fairness, integrity, competence, and zeal.”
She would add, “On behalf of the Commonwealth and the community, county law enforcement and I have worked hard and diligently to bring these crimes before a court of law without delay, so as to obtain truth and pursue justice on behalf of the public forthwith.”
In January 2019, a year before the case against Coleman would eventually end in a mistrial, a Dinwiddie grand jury found sufficient evidence to indict him on a single charge of capital murder. Days after the indictment was certified, Baskervill said her office would not seek the death penalty in the case.
With the capital murder charge superseding the first-degree murder and kidnapping charges that were handed down by a July 2018 grand jury, those two charges were dismissed.
When asked about the case following the capital murder indictment, the prosecutor said there wasn’t any new piece of evidence that made the ability to pursue capital murder possible, saying their existing evidence had become “refined” since the 2018 murder.
“Our evidence has refined since the summer, as any case would/should, and it has become more of a ‘true case’ as analyses come in and the prosecution works with law enforcement to put everything together,” Baskervill detailed. “Capital murder is the most serious charge under Virginia law, and I am not willing to take that charge lightly. We needed to get all open analyses in, and we needed to continue to gather evidence, and we/I needed to seriously ponder the case, on behalf of the community.”
She continued, “In addition to the gravity of the charge to lodge against a defendant, a capital murder case can make for a grueling trial and trial process, including pre-trial litigation. That, too, is part of what I don’t take lightly. It should be, and was and is here, a charge resulting only from a very deliberative, thoughtful, well-considered evaluation.”
Baskervill also said her office’s resources had been “stretched painfully thin” during that summer but had since improved in early 2019.
“I am not going to pursue a case that I cannot pursue appropriately fairly, diligently, competently, and effectively,” the prosecutor said. “The community and my ethical obligations count on me for that. Over the summer our office’s resources were stretched painfully thin. While I can make it work, I am not irresponsible. I have been candid with the beautiful victim’s family, with the community, with opposing counsel, and with the Court about that.”
A series of hearing throughout 2019, including a mental evaluation of Coleman to determine if he was competent to stand trial, culminated that summer in a gag order being placed on both the prosecution and defense and the case being set for trial this month.
Entering his trial on Jan. 2, Coleman’s capital murder charge was amended to a lesser second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five to 40 years in state prison.
While the trial was blocked out on the court’s docket for up to 11 days, according to court records, it would only utilize seven of those days as the jury told presiding judge Paul Cella they were hopelessly deadlocked after a day spent deliberating.
As the first trial ended in a hung jury, Coleman and his attorneys are expected to return to court on February 18 for a hearing, where it is possible the case will be set for trial.
Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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