June 13, 1996 in City

Jury Starts Deliberating Double-Murder Case Prosecutor Concludes His Arguments By Asking That Comeslast Be Given Life Sentence

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser concluded his closing argument in the double-murder trial of Kenneth “Junior” Comeslast by pointing a finger at the defendant.

“He did it … and he had all the choices that night. Those girls - Cindy Buffin and Kendra Grantham - didn’t have any choices,” Sweetser said Wednesday.

Asking the jury to send Comeslast to prison for the rest of his life, Sweetser said the teenager was a calculating killer last Aug. 9 when Grantham, 16, and Buffin, 17, died in a hail of bullets fired from a semiautomatic rifle.

Richard Fasy, the attorney defending the 16-year-old Comeslast, made his final statement to the jury just as plain: “I appeal to your sense of conscience, that you do right by Kenneth Comeslast.”

The eight-man, four-woman Superior Court jury spent three hours deliberating Comeslast’s fate Wednesday afternoon, seven days after the trial began.

They’ll resume today, guided by about 60 pages of instructions from Judge Kathleen O’Connor.

As jurors left the courtroom, none looked directly at Comeslast, standing expressionless nearby.

The jury is expected to need most of today to sort through the detailed instructions before rendering verdicts on four major charges against Comeslast.

Two of those charges are for premeditated, aggravated murder for the killings of Buffin and Grantham on the front porch of a Hillyard home.

They died almost instantly after being struck by bullets fired from a nearby yard.

Comeslast - known as “Junior” - also faces two counts of first-degree attempted murder because Amanda Denny, 13, was wounded in the attack and Sadie Maddox, 13, was endangered.

Sweetser and Deputy Prosecutor David Hearrean said Comeslast was a passenger that night in a station wagon that drove by the house at 2928 E. Central where Denny and her brother, Eric, lived.

He and four others in the car then went to Comeslast’s house a mile away, where he loaded the rifle with gold, hollow-point bullets. They drove back toward the Denny house and parked in an alley a block away.

Comeslast’s four companions testified he then left the car, pulled a hood over his head and approached the house carrying the weapon.

Minutes later, after shots erupted, they saw him running back to the car, supposedly shouting “62nd Street East Coast Crips,” the gang to which he belonged, according to authorities.

If convicted of aggravated murder, Comeslast would spend the rest of his life behind bars. In Washington, the death penalty cannot be imposed on a minor.

Fasy, who called no witnesses during the trial, told jurors there isn’t enough evidence establishing Comeslast as the shooter.

“Even if you decide he was the shooter, there is no compelling evidence to show that the killings were intentional,” Fasy said.

He also disputed evidence produced by the prosecution - including a sheet of rap lyrics that bragged about killing people with guns - that Comeslast was trying to earn respect among gang peers by shooting people who had crossed his path.

Those lyrics - seized while Comeslast was in juvenile detention last fall - amounted to teenage bragging, Fasy said.

Fasy argued Comeslast was already a member of a gang and didn’t need to commit a murder to build his reputation.

At the worst, what could have happened, Fasy speculated, is Comeslast took the gun with him that night “to scare the people” at the Denny house.

“The gun might have discharged accidentally or unintentionally in the direction of those girls,” he said.

But Sweetser said “actions speak louder than words.”

Though his companions heard no gang-related remarks by Comeslast before the shootings, he was acting out of vengeance “for having been messed with” by people who lived in the Denny house, Sweetser said.

“This was no accident. He had to pull the trigger. It’s an act of intention, and he pulled that trigger five times that night,” Sweetser said.

, DataTimes

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