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‘Vindicated’: Jury sides with Kansas City man who was shot, then arrested and prosecuted

·3 min read
File/The Kansas City Star

A Kansas City man who wrestled a gun away from a man who shot him and then was charged with illegally possessing the firearm was acquitted during a trial last week.

Corey Winfield said he felt “vindicated” when he heard the jury deliver its verdict June 15 in Jackson County Circuit Court. That feeling came after more than three years of waiting for his case to be resolved, including months spent in jail or on house arrest, and after turning down two plea deals offered by prosecutors.

The 38 year old was shot twice in the leg during a March 15, 2019, altercation.

“I definitely was in fear for my life,” he said in a phone interview.

As a convicted felon, Winfield was not allowed to carry a firearm. But he could have a knife and though injured, he stabbed the shooter and took the gun. The shooter, who Winfield said he “vaguely” knew, got away and Winfield proceeded to place the gun on a nearby vehicle.

When police arrived at the scene near East 69th Street and Monroe Avenue, Winfield was arrested. Jackson County prosecutors charged him with unlawful possession of a firearm, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

While awaiting trial, he spent more than four months in jail, then was released on house arrest and later was on pre-trial supervision. The case dragged on for years, partially due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually prosecutors offered him a deal: plead guilty and go on probation.

He refused.

“I just always knew that it wouldn’t stick,” Winfield said. “So I was just waiting until my day in court.”

Prosecutors came back with a second offer of time served. Again, Winfield said no.

He waited it out for more than three years, checking in with his court supervisor, wearing an electronic monitor and attending court dates.

“There’s something to be said for the notion that leading up to trial is a punishment in itself,” said Erich Fonke, Winfield’s attorney and a Jackson County public defender.

Last week, a jury was selected and evidence was presented. Fonke said jurors had to weigh if the law prohibiting felons from having a gun was worth more than someone’s life.

After both sides rested, the jury took about 75 minutes to reach its decision, he said.

“The not guilty verdict shows that the people, the jury, whom my life was in their hands, they really worked it out. So the justice system actually worked,” Winfield said. “But as far as the prosecutor ever even trying to prosecute me in that way, I don’t even know why he was even trying to make a case against me.”

“It’s like he was basically saying ‘Oh you’re a felon so you have no right to live.’”

The case should have been dismissed by prosecutors, Fonke added.

In a statement, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said it was disappointed in the outcome, but respected the jury’s verdict.

“The prosecution of criminal cases presents multiple challenges, including weighing the safety concerns of witnesses who do not wish to testify and Missouri’s very broad self-defense laws,” the prosecutor’s office said. “Those challenges were present here in a case that cannot simply be defined as a gun possession case but rather involved a struggle over multiple weapons that resulted in multiple injuries. The trial court deemed that the State had provided sufficient evidence for a jury to determine the case.”

Winfield, who works at a plastics manufacturing plant, a job he started while on house arrest, said he’s “feeling really blessed.”

“I’m feeling really free.”

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