Day 2 in state trooper trial

By: Andie Adams Email
By: Andie Adams Email

Day Two of a high-profile case pits a man defending and demanding his rights against a trooper who had to make a split-second decision in a volatile situation.

Both sides presented opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of Ivan Lawyer, a state trooper who faces charges in the shooting death of 31-year-old Jason Kemp.

Prosecutors allege that Lawyer violated Kemp's 4th Amendment rights when he entered his house on July 20, 2010. Lawyer was trying to arrest Kemp after witnesses said Kemp was driving drunk at his house in the Redlands and ran into an embankment nearby. Kemp left the scene soon after, classifying the incident as a possible DUI and hit and run.

Lawyer was directed to Kemp’s house by witnesses and knocked on the door to make contact with the suspect, with the help of his field training officer, Corporal Kirk Firko. No one at the door initially answered, but after an escalation of events, prosecutors said Lawyer kicked open the front to confront Kemp and shot him when he thought he saw a weapon in Kemp’s hand.

The prosecution said the case centers around the trooper’s actions and one question: was he legally justified in forcefully entering the home and allegedly shooting Kemp?

The district attorney's office brought in the front door from Kemp's home as part of their opening statements. The door had splatters of blood and what appeared to be black boot marks on the outside. Prosecutors said that shows how much force the troopers used to gain access.

The defense presented a different account. They said Lawyer is a good guy and a good trooper, who in a terrible situation had to react very quickly. They said that Lawyer is a peaceful, Christian family man.

According to the defense, it was Firko who acted recklessly and escalated the situation, not Lawyer. They said it was expected for Lawyer to follow orders.

Continuing the opening statements, the defense said the coroner's testimony will show Kemp's arm was raised in a firing position at the moment of the shooting, and pictures show that he was wearing a silver bracelet on his right arm that defenders say could have easily been mistaken for a weapon in that split second.

Another new fact in the case came to light Tuesday. Kemp's blood alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit at 0.281 when he was shot.

The defense tried to make the case that based on witness testimony, Lawyer had probable cause to try to make a DUI arrest at Kemp’s residence.

After opening arguments, prosecutors called their first witness to the stand, Jim Hebenstreit with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. He was the lead investigator for the critical incident team, which processed the crime scene, recorded all the evidence, conducted interviews with witnesses and involved parties. Hebenstreit was the only witness to take the stand today.

Lawyer is charged with four felonies and two misdemeanors. The most serious charge is criminally negligent homicide. The trial will continue tomorrow as more witnesses take the stand.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 04:28 PM
    I would have them working a chain gang. Picking up dog doo is beyond their mental ability.
  • by Judge Roy Bean Location: Out West on Apr 11, 2012 at 11:08 AM
    I sure wish I had these Troopers in my Courtroom.I would give each one 3 things, raise in pay-award-and put them back to work!
  • by I Get It Location: Fruita on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:07 AM
    The Kemp family is nothing but a bunch of drunken thugs, Jason's brothers tried to fly a plane drunk, It took police to knife the tires on the plane to stop them. This family does not know what boundaries are and a tragedy like this was bound to happen. The rest of the family is bound to end up being killed or killing someone else. Jason was no Saint! lets remember this.
    • reply
      by Uh huh... on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:57 AM in reply to I Get It
      Let's be real... Is anyone a saint? Does that mean we all deserve to roll over and do whatever the cops say? He may have been the biggest piece of you know what on earth and I don't know because I didn't know him. However, last I checked, we live in the United States of America, where we have something called the constitution which we supposedly live by. Those cops did not have the right to barge into his house and shoot him dead. At the very least, they should have had a search warrant, and Jason should have been put on trial! Not to death.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 09:51 AM in reply to I Get It
      Oh my God!!! Drunk Flying sounds awesome!!! I bet it would be a lot safer than driving, there aren't any stop signs or light posts to hit, way less traffic and most planes come with their own barf bags in case you need to hurl and rally. Throwing beer bottles at road signs is so much fun, imagine throwing them at flocks of geese and cop cars on the ground. What are the cops going to do, pull me over??? HaHaHa! It's just too bad they put that stupid fence around the airport.
  • by N on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:34 AM
    Guess who didn't get shot that day? Those of us who woke up and DIDN'T make the conscious choice to drink way past the point of serious impairment and then chose to drive a motor vehicle recklessly and crash the vehicle, endagering the lives of countless other innocent people and then refusing to face the consequences of our actions by obeying the orders of law enforcement. The world would be a much better place if stupidity was more painful more often.
  • by tom Location: G.J on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:11 AM
    storm trooper ,gestapo, SS , these are words that come to mind
  • by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 05:40 AM
    No natural selection at all, it was the action of Troupers violating the laws and committing murder. We need psychological evaluations of all the police officers all the way up to the commanders. They encourage this abomination on the public. I only see sidewalls as a “mental illness” not as intimidating, as the sort-sighted cops want you to think. It is hard to keep a straight face when I see those bozos.
    • reply
      by Duh ! on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:19 AM in reply to
      Kemp's blood alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit at 0.281. His life or ours, he was a threat to all of us. Would you have the same opinion if he in his drunken state killed your loved one. I have no sympathy for him RIP.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 01:00 AM
    Good job troopers. Kemp punched his own ticket that day by his actions. He was absolutely hammered from drinking all day, and ran away from the cops to avoid a DUI. Then he got shatty with the trooper and well.....guess what happened. Natural selection folks. GJ is a better city without him, and he'll never victimize anyone again. He was a drunk, a thief, and a whole lot of other things. RIP (rest in pain) punk.
  • by SM Location: GJ on Apr 10, 2012 at 08:08 PM
    No justified reason to kick in a door without a warrant. Who's next?? You, me??ive known good troopers and dirty troopers.
  • by JAMES Location: GRAND JUNCTION on Apr 10, 2012 at 07:33 PM
    I HATE THAT POSSIBLY A GOOD MAN MADE A BAD DECISION BUT I'M HAVING A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING HOW THE DECEASED ESCALATED THE SITUATION EXCEPT TO JUST NOT OPEN THE DOOR. THE RISE OF UNSUBSTANTIATED SHOOTING BY OFFICERS IS APPALLING AS WELL AS THE LACK OF PROSECUTION. I FEEL THAT IF AN OFFICER KILLS SOMEONE DUE TO A MISTAKE THEN THEY SHOULD NEVER CARRY A GUN AGAIN.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM in reply to JAMES
      I hate that you had to go caplocks on us. Next time type the right way, and maybe we'll read your post.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:28 AM in reply to Anonymous
        Lol, good to know that I'm not the only one who automatically skips any post in all caps. Just as in real life, the loudest voice is usually the one with the least intelligent things to say.
        • reply
          by JAMES on Apr 12, 2012 at 07:10 AM in reply to
          IF JASON WAS THE ONE DRUNK HOW DID LAWYER MAKE THE ERROR IN SHOOTING AN UNARMED MAN? SOUNDS LIKE HE CANT BE TRUSTED SOBER.
      • reply
        by JANES on Apr 12, 2012 at 07:09 AM in reply to Anonymous
        ANONYMOUS (IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME) DON'T REALLY CARE IF YOU LIKE WHETHER I TYPE IN CAPS OR NOT. JUST HOPIING LAYER DECIDES TO KICK IN YOUR DOOR NEXT TIME.
    • reply
      by Get Real on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:30 AM in reply to JAMES
      "A GOOD MAN MADE A BAD DECISION" This is what excuse I read when ever a person does wrong. Jason was a train wreck waiting to happen. He was not a GOOD MAN,"He was a drunk, a thief, and a whole lot of other things." quoting another comment.
  • by GP on Apr 10, 2012 at 06:15 PM
    I agree about firko escalating the situation! Lawyer stop me at a DUI check point and everything was fine but Firko started YELLING at me about how he disliked sportbikes. FIRKO need punished also.
    • reply
      by Follow the Drugs on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:45 AM in reply to GP
      GP, Do you have a TIC from all those drugs. YELLING at a DUI check point? Get a life, I doubt this happened in such a pubic setting. DUI CHECKPOINTS are a Public Relation ploy getting violators is just a perk. You my friend have fecal matter for brains.
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