Trial of suspect charged in teen’s 2018 murder ends in hung jury, mistrial

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: January 14, 2020 | 1:45 p.m.

DINWIDDIE – A Dinwiddie County jury was unable to break through and deliver a unanimous decision in a high-profile trial centered around the 2018 abduction and murder of a Dinwiddie teenager by a relative, resulting in a mistrial being declared in the case.

After remaining hopelessly deadlocked late last week, presiding Judge Paul Cella declared a mistrial in the case of Anton Coleman, an Alberta native arrested and charged in connection with the murder of 16-year-old Ke’Asia Adkins in late June of 2018. 

At the time of her disappearance, the teenager had been reported missing by her family when she failed to show up for cheerleading practice at Dinwiddie High School. Dozens of friends, family, and strangers took time out to search for the missing young woman and held prayer vigils, holding out hope she would be found safely and returned home.

Those hopes were dashed days later as Adkins’ body was found a short distance away from her home just off U.S. Route 1 in Northeastern Dinwiddie. The state medical examiner’s office ruled Adkins died of asphyxiation.

The same day her body was recovered, Coleman was arrested by police and charged with felony abduction before later being indicted by a grand jury and charged with first-degree murder.

During this month’s trial, Coleman, who faced an amended charge of second-degree murder, and his defense team argued the Commonwealth had not proven its case beyond the key legal threshold of reasonable doubt, suggesting that Commonwealth Attorney’ Ann Cabell Baskervill’s case was largely circumstantial. 

As prosecutors and members of the defense detailed their cases, both sides scrutinized global positioning data from an ankle monitor worn by Coleman at the time of Adkins’ murder, which the Alberta man was required to wear in connection with a domestic case in neighboring Chesterfield, with the defense arguing the Commonwealth had fallen short of proving Coleman was the assailant beyond a reasonable doubt. 

In retort, Baskervill said the defense laid out by Coleman’s legal representatives was “smoke and mirrors” as the jury prepared to deliberate and, after several hours, the 12-person body was unable to break the stalemate. 

Ke'Asia Andrea Adkins

Throughout the close of 2018 and continuing through 2019, the case against Coleman was tied up in a number of special hearings but, at the start of 2019, a development in the case would occur as a Dinwiddie grand jury would indict Coleman on capital murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death, if convicted.

At the time of the indictment in January of last year, Baskervill told The Dinwiddie Monitor there wasn’t any new information or evidence that suddenly made their ability to prosecute a capital murder case possible as opposed to first-degree murder, saying the prosecution’s evidence had become more “refined.”

“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 last year. “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.”

The prosecutor would add that her office did not intend to pursue the death penalty in the capital murder case against Coleman, adding that the basis for capital murder was always present but several considerations had to be made.

“The foundation of the charge is inherent in the two indictments original lodged against the defendant,” she explained at the time, referring to the initial indictments in the summer of 2018 of first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile.

As part of that capital murder indictment, both the first-degree murder and abduction charges Coleman initially faced were “nolle prosequi,” or dismissed as capital murder supersedes first-degree murder and, according to Baskervill, their office’s “capital murder charge … incorporates the element of abduction.”

One year later as Coleman’s trial got underway this month, his previous capital murder charge was amended to second-degree murder, which carries a penalty between five to up to 40 years in state prison.

As of this report, it is unknown what led to prosecutors to decide to amend the prior indictment of capital murder to a lesser second-degree murder charge. In the summer of last year, a gag order was put in place, limiting what either side could discuss relating to the case.

The order came weeks after it was revealed that Coleman was to be transferred to Dinwiddie’s Central State Hospital for a mental evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial. While the results of that evaluation were not disclosed prior to the implementation of the gag order, Baskervill said at the time, “When the defendant is deemed to be competent to stand trial, that is when we will be able to set a trial date.”

It was noted in court documents that the requested evaluation in the summer of last year would not include statements “relating to the time period of the alleged offense,” with the goal of the evaluation to determine “the defendant’s capacity to understand the proceedings against him, his ability to assist his attorney, and his need for treatment in the event that he is found to be incompetent.”

With the mistrial now declared, it is expected the case will return to Dinwiddie Circuit Court for a second trial in the future, with a hearing set for January 21.

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