Hancock County Man Found "Not Guilty" Of Mardi Gras Manslaughter - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

02/25/05

Hancock County Man Found "Not Guilty" Of Mardi Gras Manslaughter

It took a jury about three hours to return a "not guilty" verdict for a Hancock County man accused of manslaughter.

Robert Corkern, 22, was on trial for a February 2004 fight that resulted in the death of 42-year-old Bryant Keyes of Waveland.

Corkern admits he punched Keyes. The blow made him fall to the ground.

Thursday, a medical examiner testified that Keyes died not from the punch, but from the injuries he received when his head hit the asphalt.

After Judge Jerry Terry read the jury's verdict to the entire courtroom, Robert Corkern appeared to breathe a big sigh of relief.

The verdict stirred up a much different emotion from the victim's family.

"We have a man dead and nobody's paying the price for it," Bryant Keyes fiancé Michelle LaFrance said.

Keyes mother Carolyn Byrd, echoed her words.

"I'm disappointed, yes. But I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised cause I don't think Hancock County has never had any justice done over here. My son's lived over here for several years and I know how the law works over here with the good old buddy system."

LaFrance was in the process of planning a wedding to marry Bryant Keyes.

She told WLOX NEWS, "One punch and this man lost his life. That's all it takes. You don't punch somebody expecting to kill them, but they fall and hit their head. That's all it takes. Now Bryant, 42-years-old, has two teenage daughters. He will never see them graduate high school. He's never seen his grandbaby. That grandbaby will never know who her grandpa was."

The fight happened in Waveland last year, near the Save-A-Center parking lot after a Mardi Gras parade.

During closing arguments, Corkern's attorney Todd Thriffily told the jury his client never intended to kill the victim.

"Robert never set out to kill Bryant. He was acting in his own defense and in defense of others that's why he punched him."

Assistant D.A. Chris Schmidt told the jury just the opposite.

"We never said that he intended to kill him. We don't have to prove that. That's not the law. The law says intent to hit him, and if hitting him killed him, the law makes note of that and says that's a manslaughter."

The jury disagreed, returning a not guilty verdict.

During the trial the District Attorney said three other people were involved in the fight. Keyes' family says those people should stand trial as well. They say they won't let the case rest until they believe justice has been done.

by Al Showers

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