Man convicted of killing his family excuses himself during testimony of relatives
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent February 6, 2013 7:02PM
Kevin Isom. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 7:39AM
About an hour into the testimony of his mother, a Gary man facing the death penalty for the murders of his family told the judge he didn’t want to be present in court.
With the jury excused, Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. allowed Kevin Charles Isom to confer privately with his defense team of Herbert Shaps and Casey McCloskey, along with a mitigation specialist, before returning to court.
Isom, 47, was convicted Tuesday of the 2007 murders of his wife, Cassandra Isom, 40, and stepchildren Michael Moore, 16, and Ci’Andria Cole, 13.
The trial, in its fifth week, is now in the penalty or sentencing phase. Prosecutors must prove an aggravating circumstance, that Isom committed multiple killings, beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense may present evidence in mitigation such as Isom’s age, character, education, environment, mental state, life or background or any aspect of the case. That level of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, or more probably true than not true. Jurors determine mitigating factors individually before arriving at a unanimous decision on the sentence — death by lethal injection, life without parole or a term of years, which the judge will impose.
Deputy prosecutor David Urbanski incorporated all the evidence from the first phase of the trial and presented certified death certificates for each of the victims before he rested his case.
Shortly thereafter, Isom’s mother, Lula Isom, began testifying about her childhood and young adult years. The daughter of a sharecropper father and a mother who worked as a housekeeper, Lula Isom said her only son was smart and earned Bs and Cs. She was 22 and living in Chicago when Isom was born. His father, Ulice Chester, was not involved in her son’s life and wasn’t listed on Isom’s birth certificate, she said. She said her mother and sisters helped raise Isom. The family moved frequently and at times she struggled financially.
McCloskey had asked whether Lula Isom drank during her pregnancy. “Occasionally I would have a beer,” she said.
After meeting with his attorneys, Isom told the judge he didn’t want to be present while his family testifies. “I just don’t want to sit through my family being paraded,” he said. “I don’t see the relevance in what is being presented.”
Stefaniak questioned Isom about the possible risk that the jury could draw an improper conclusion with him not being in court. “I think the jury’s mind is made up,” Isom said. The judge also said it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Isom to know whether any incorrect information had been presented if he left the courtroom. “I just don’t want to witness the circus anymore, what they’re calling mitigation evidence,” Isom said.
Isom said the interaction he has had with his attorneys “didn’t benefit me.”
The judge told Isom he could be excused while his family members testified. McCloskey listed seven relatives scheduled as witnesses for Thursday.
Isom indicated he would return later this week when other witnesses are expected to testify.