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Posted: 5/13/2004 3:35:50 AM EST
No case, therefore no guilty verdict for storeowner
By Dug Begley

Juror Cole Lattimore carefully chose his words as he left Judge Martin McDonald’s court, having never heard the whole story about how Firas Al Kurdi shot and killed James Abdul-Shajee during an armed robbery.

“I said the case was not made, and I agreed with the judge,” Lattimore said. With that simple statement, Lattimore kept his mouth shut.

In dismissing the case, McDonald didn’t.

After agreeing to a defense motion for a directed verdict, McDonald lamented the case even reaching his circuit court. “It was troubling to me from the get-go,” McDonald said of the murder charges levied against Al Kurdi, stemming from an armed robbery of his store, the Shelby Food Mart. “I am puzzled how this case got by the grand jury.”

Al Kurdi went into work Oct. 12, 2002, and was there only a few moments before Abdul-Shajee entered the store brandishing a knife and demanding money. Abdul-Shajee grabbed Al Kurdi from behind and held the knife to his throat. Abdul-Shajee then cut Al Kurdi across the throat and made several swipes at his face, severely cutting Al Kurdi’s nose.

Another employee of the store pulled out a handgun kept behind the counter, but Abdul-Shajee quickly told him to put it down. Meanwhile, witnesses said, Al Kurdi was yelling for someone to shoot Abdul-Shajee. A struggle between the two men ensued, Al Kurdi took control of the gun, and Abdul-Shajee was shot three times. Al Kurdi then beat him with the gun and a baton-style club also found at the scene.

While this would be Abdul-Shajee’s last stick-up, it was definitely not his first.

He had 10 previous convictions, including seven armed robberies, including one of the Star of Louisville dinner boat, two wanton endangerments and a kidnapping.

Rob Bonar, the assistant commonwealth attorney, never tried to deny Abdul-Shajee went into the Shelby Food Mart to rob it. But he seriously questioned whether he deserved to die. “What this was was a factual dispute,” Bonar said after McDonald’s ruling.

Though prosecutors argued Al Kurdi went too far, and that Abdul-Shajee’s death was murder, McDonald didn’t even come close to agreeing after prosecutors Mac Shannon and Bonar finished their case. “If there is a victim in this room right now, it is Mr. Al Kurdi,” McDonald said.

Then he said it. The thing every sound-biter of local news will remember. “He was viciously assaulted by this animal and his actions were completely reasonable under the circumstances.”

The statement left Al Kurdi’s family flying high and Abdul-Shajee’s supporters speechless. Both sides registered slight gasps, afraid to speak because McDonald had earlier warned that no one was to make a peep while he was announcing his decision.

But when the judge left the room, and Al Kurdi’s family had been ushered out, Abdul-Shajee’s friends and family lashed out at the six sheriff’s deputies there to keep the peace. Most of their ire, however, was directed at McDonald.

“He’s supposed to be unbiased — flat-headed little bastard,” Sharon Shajee, Abdul-Shajee’s wife, yelled. Deputies quickly advised her to keep calm and leave the courtroom.

Other people who gathered to see justice come down on their side were as sorely disappointed. One woman, threatened twice with arrest by officers, was finally coaxed out by another family member, but not before she made numerous derogatory references to Al Kurdi’s Middle Eastern roots. “You’ll get yours at God,” she said.

But the clash didn’t stop there. When Abdul-Shajee’s family saw supporters of Al Kurdi on the street, tensions erupted and Sharon Shajee briefly attacked Al Kurdi’s cousin.

Bonar argued before the judge’s decision that a jury should decide if Al Kurdi acted in self-defense and whether he stepped over the line by shooting and then beating Abdul-Shajee to death. A medical examiner testified that Abdul-Shajee’s bullet wounds were not necessarily fatal, but could be. An autopsy reveled he bled to death from a shot to the liver.

Still, Bonar contends, the fact that Abdul-Shajee went in with bad intentions does not mean he should have died. But, he added, those who saw the struggle had trouble keeping their stories straight. “A liability of our case was our witness credibility,” Bonar said. “But it isn’t uncommon when people view a brutal event.”

McDonald, in his statement, rarely touched on testimony, but summed up the case in total. “This case screams out for justice,” he said. “It needs to be dismissed, and that is exactly what I am going to do.”

Although mum since his forthright comments on the bench, McDonald has found a defender in Al Kurdi’s defense attorney, Armand Judah.

“This community should have nothing but praise for Judge McDonald, who made sure that justice prevailed in this matter,” Judah said in a prepared statement.

Although he declined to speak after the trial, Judah said he wrote the statement the following day after seeing media coverage of the case. “I feel the judge was being painted in an unfavorable light,” he said.

The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has said McDonald should resign and criticized his characterization of Abdul-Shajee as an “animal.”

McDonald should not be swayed by the request, Judah said.

“Judge McDonald was absolutely correct when he stated that Mr. Al Al Kurdi was the victim here and that this community owed him an apology,” he wrote. “Mr. Al Kurdi was fighting to save his life and the lives of others, including children, who were in the store that day. Mr. Al Kurdi is a hero.”

Link Posted: 5/13/2004 3:40:04 AM EST
These people need to get American names. Reading that gave me a headache.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 3:49:18 AM EST
I agree, like Bill Abdul Shajee Smith
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 3:58:44 AM EST
Agree with the judge, the case should have never gotten beyond the grand jury.

Link Posted: 5/13/2004 3:58:52 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 4:08:43 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 4:30:25 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 6:02:44 AM EST
They need to clean house in the prosecutor's office.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 6:06:08 AM EST

Originally Posted By Hawkeye:

Link Posted: 5/13/2004 6:10:58 AM EST

Originally Posted By cyanide:
These people need to get American names. Reading that gave me a headache.

You know what...I agree 100% with you on this issue.

Link Posted: 5/13/2004 6:59:05 AM EST

Originally Posted By TomJefferson:
Agree with the judge, the case should have never gotten beyond the grand jury.


The reasons is that some people don't like to serve on juries, and all you get left are the dumb ones. I've heard that the grand jury in the Micheal Jackson case in Santa Barbara County will indict a ham sandwich, that is not speaking too highly of them. You get out of it as much as you put into it.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 7:03:00 AM EST
The topic of this post should have been:

More Prosecutorial Mis-Conduct.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 7:17:56 AM EST
ya, "even though he came in with ad intentions, he didn't deserve to die" Right he just slit the other guys throat and didn't deserve to die. He deserved to die the second he thought of robbing the store.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 7:42:59 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/13/2004 7:43:32 AM EST by Da_Bunny]
"Something must be wrong with me....I don't feel bad."
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 3:33:51 PM EST

Originally Posted By thebeekeeper1:

Good riddance on the dead POS.

well said
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 4:41:37 PM EST
Sad when a victim can be turned into the bad guy and the bad guy can be turned into a victim. That dumbass wouldn't be dead if he wasn't out robbing people making an honest living. I swear this world gets stupider and stupider.
Link Posted: 5/13/2004 4:58:44 PM EST
The judge did the right thing.

I am still trying to figure how the title of this thread fits the story.
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