November 21, 2008
Kinlaw's family pleads for mercy
By Teresa Stepzinski,
BRUNSWICK - Convicted killer Harold Dean Kinlaw brushed at the corner of his eyes Thursday as his aunt wept while detailing the vicious beatings he'd suffered as a child, and then begged a Glynn County jury to spare his life.
Kinlaw, 57, of White Oak, faces the death penalty or life in prison for ambushing and gunning down a federal agent, who was his ex-wife's lover, at a garage sale four years ago.
The jury Monday found Kinlaw guilty of malice murder in the Jan. 18, 2004, slaying of Felipe Herrera, a 61-year-old U.S. Customs agent who taught Spanish at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center north of Brunswick.
The jury also found Kinlaw guilty of kidnapping 43-year-old Damaris Kinlaw, the third of his ex-wives, of aggravated assault, aggravated stalking and two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime. In addition, jurors convicted Kinlaw of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Kinlaw's attorneys, Kevin Gough and Ron Harrison, began presenting evidence Thursday intended to convince the jury to impose a life sentence, the only alternative to death Georgia law allows in a malice murder conviction.
Kinlaw's aunt, Mary Keck, 65, who helped raise him, was the first of 11 witnesses to testify on his behalf. She told jurors that as a boy, Kinlaw tried to protect his mother and his baby sister from his biological father who beat them all nearly to death on several occasions.
"I think his father's abuse affected him psychologically," Keck said.
Keck also testified that Kinlaw's personality changed, and he became withdrawn and uncommunicative after being critically injured in an automobile accident when he was 17. During a later car trip to Florida, Kinlaw got very agitated with her because she wanted to stop for the night, Keck said.
"I was scared a little bit of him, and I had never been before," Keck testified. "He was like a different person. Like he was under some kind of pressure."
Bursting into tears, Keck pleaded with jurors to show him mercy.
"I'm asking you to spare his life. I'm not too proud to beg you for his life. I love my nephew very much ... He has a lot of good in him," she said.
Kinlaw wasn't named among the witnesses that Gough, in his opening statement, told jurors would be testifying.
However, Kinlaw's mother, sister and several friends will testify for him. In addition, an Atlanta psychiatrist will testify that people like Kinlaw who were subjected to domestic violence as children "can grow up to do horrible things," Gough said.
"The evidence will show Harold Kinlaw never had a chance. He was doomed almost before he was even born," Gough said.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Before resting Wednesday afternoon, they presented evidence showing Kinlaw has a history of brutality against women spanning 34 years including beating, raping and stalking his three former wives and two ex-girlfriends.
Herrera's three daughters also told jurors how their father's slaying has devastated their lives.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Kinlaw's sentence this afternoon.
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