COLUMBUS — In the first day of testimony in the Kaston Hudgins murder trial the prosecution and the defense disagreed on very little.
Both sides agree that at about 9:30 p.m. July 16, 2009 Hudgins did what he has been accused of — ran from Cherokee County Deputy Dean Kidd, north on Highway 69 at speeds reaching 120 mph before ramming into the back of a 2006 Pontiac Vibe driven by Teresa Kemp, killing her and her 13 year-old daughter Taylor.
"Thirteen year-old Taylor Kemp died in a piece of twisted metal and glass on the median of 69 highway," Special Prosecutor Barry Disney said in opening statements. "In just the few minutes it took for rescuers to reach through and grasp her wrist, she was gone — Teresa held on for six days longer."
Defense attorney Shane Adamson did not dispute the facts in his opening statement, but appeared to be pushing for instructions from the judge which would allow for a lesser charge than the two counts of felony first degree murder and one count of felony fleeing and eluding Hudgins is facing.
"There is no question on the night of July 16, 2009 there was a horrific traffic accident," Adamson said. "It's no secret to tell you now, was certainly under the influence of alcohol at the time — which is illegal."
During an afternoon of testimony, Adamson did not at any point dispute the facts prosecution witnesses testified to, but rather repeatedly attacked their recollections of events on that night. Adamson also noted that Kidd had only been a patrol deputy for a few months at the time of the incident and was involved in his first chase.
He also repeatedly noted Hudgins was drunk at the time of the incident.
Blood alcohol tests taken at the time showed Hudgins with a blood alcohol content of .15 — nearly twice the legal limit of .08.
Hudgins was originally facing two counts of first degree murder, two counts of fleeing or attempting to elude, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, two count of failure to yield, driving without headlights, improper driving on a laned road and speeding.
The charges were amended prior to the trial and everything but the two murder charges and the felony eluding charge were dropped.
In the State of Kansas premeditation is not required to charge someone with first degree murder. If someone dies while a defendant is in commission of another felony the defendant — in this case Hudgins — can be charged with first degree murder.
If convicted Hudgins is potentially facing two life terms with no eligibility for parole for at least 20 years.
The prosecution plans to rest Thursday morning and the defense will probably finish it's case Thursday afternoon. A verdict could come as early as tomorrow.