Linda King of Laws Chapel Road, Maryville was interviewed recently regarding the first-degree murder trial of Kimberly Cunningham. Cunningham was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the October 2003 death of Coy Hundley.
Cunningham shot Hundley in the parking lot of his workplace, SlideLock Tool on Topside Road. She testified in an April 2005 trial that on the day of the killing, her daughter confided that Hundley had molested her.
Records show Cunningham testified that she confronted Hundley about the accusation, he asked what she was going to do, and she shot him repeatedly, reloaded and shot him again before she drove to the Knox County Sheriffs Office and surrendered.
King said that she was one of an 11 woman, one man jury charged with deciding Cunninghams fate. They deliberated 14 hours, agreed she wasnt guilty of first-degree murder but hung on second-degree. King said when deliberations began, there were at least five people who thought Cunningham should get first-degree murder. "I didnt believe she was a cold-blooded killer. It was kind of split. We couldnt come to a decision," King said.
King agreed with defense attorney Bruce Poston who said the crime most fit the description of voluntary manslaughter because it occurred in the heat of passion. Even though the defendant fired all her bullets, reloaded and kept firing, King believed Cunningham never intended to shoot Hundley because when she dropped her son at school that morning, she made plans to take him to the movies. "She had no plans for being in jail," King said.
King said her fellow jurors became deadlocked against her. "The jury was very brutal," she said. "I kept saying voluntary manslaughter. They said I was stupid and didnt have an ounce of sense. I said, I think this family has suffered enough. The jury, it was very brutal. I felt we could do this nice but it ended up being pretty mean. They would pound on table and say, You have to go along with this."
King said she was taking a stand because she felt Cunningham acted in the heat of passion. When it became evident King wasnt going to budge, the other jurors wrote a letter to the judge and read it to her before they sent it.
"They wrote a letter saying one person on the jury was illogical and uncooperative and senseless and read it to me, asking me, Is this what you want to turn in?
I said, Im not going to agree to punish this family more than theyve already been punished. I said, Its not a matter of compromise. That trial got thrown out because I hung that jury."
Six months later, another jury found Cunningham guilty of voluntary manslaughter. She is out of jail on bond pending an appeal of the four-year sentence.
King said she that although she had a bad experience serving on a jury, she would do it again. "The jury was mean to me because I was taking a stand. I would definitely serve a again," she said.
King said she has only seen one other person from the jury since the
first trial, and it was during a trip to Home Depot.
"We didnt even talk," she remembers. "We went our own ways. I guess they were all contacted to see if they would be on 20/20, and they wouldnt be," she said. "I could write a book on that jury. It was amazing, I wasnt allowed to have an opinion without being yelled at. It was rough."
King said she felt vindicated by the second jurys verdict. "Thats the thing I really think is important," she said. "Youve got to take a stand in how you feel."