A man who was shot and left paralyzed outside a Miami strip club found himself being interrogated Thursday by the man who did the shooting, a club employee.
Michael Smathers, who is black, kept his cool while being grilled by Lukace Kendle, the white man charged with murder who insisted on defending himself at trial.
Smathers, 38, was brought into the courtroom in a hospital bed, wearing all red, covered by a red blanket and with a red hat placed on his legs.
“I heard multiple shots, multiple shots and the next thing I knew, I believe the paramedics pulled me out of the truck,” Smathers told Miami-Dade prosecutor Melba Pearson.
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After Pearson asked her questions, it was Kendle’s turn. The give-and-take was occasionally tense.
Later in the day, the case went to the jury.
Kendle, in an all-black suit, his hair in a rubber-band tied ponytail, argues that he acted in self-defense when he wounded Smathers and fatally shot Kijuan Byrd, 29, outside Miami’s Club Rol-lexx, at 12001 NW 27th Ave.
He asked Smathers about the incident that took place at about 11 p.m. outside the club on June 1, 2012. Smathers said he and Byrd were barbecuing earlier in the day and decided to come to Club Rol-lexx to shoot pool. They played a few games, watched some of the Miami Heat game and then returned to Smathers’ Ford F-150 truck to smoke a joint and talk.
Kendle showed up for work and backed into a tight parking spot next to Smathers and Byrd. When he exited the car he began dressing for work in an all-black uniform with a vest, baton, gloves, a knife, ammunition and his gun. The three men exchanged looks. As Smathers and Byrd prepared to re-enter the club and Kendle came back to his car, the security guard opened fire.
Kendle continued to say he acted in self-defense and was standing his ground, referring to the state law, and asked Smathers whether the two men purposefully got out of the truck at the same time as he came back to his car.
“We didn’t time you coming back, we just got out of the truck,” Smathers said.
Kendle, 29, of Homestead, attempted to ask Smathers questions about ballistics evidence and bullet trajectory but when Smathers told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis he had no expertise in those subjects, the prosecution objected and the objections were upheld.
“These men were there to kill me. Do not feel sorry for them,” Kendle told the jury in his closing argument.
Kendle did not present any evidence in court and did not testify on his own behalf. In his closing statement, he continued to refuse assistance from his court-appointed stand-by counsel, Abe Bailey. When asked one last time by the judge whether he would accept Bailey’s help or allow him to sit at his side, Kendle responded:
“Not if he was the last man on earth.”
Before the trial, there were questions about Kendle’s mental health and he was declared mentally incompetent to proceed to trial on two occasions. He eventually was deemed competent. He shifted in his chair incessantly throughout the trial and often paced if he strayed away from the lectern.
Kendle likened himself to George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin near Orlando in February 2012. That case sparked national debate about the Stand Your Ground law, which eliminates a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat.
The prosecution argued that Kendle acted with malice and not in self-defense.
“He deliberately took these people’s lives away from them. He took Kijuan’s life away from him and he took Michael Smathers’ life as he knew it away from him,” Pearson said.