On October 26, 1995, 20-year-old Nathan King and his 18-year-old friend John Hughes were shot and killed near a creek in Pinson, Alabama. Wesley Quick and his friend Shellie Kitchen were arrested for the murders after their friend Jason Beninati told police they had bragged to him about committing the murders.
Quick was tried in September 1997. A mistrial was quickly declared due to juror misconduct; several jurors had violated the judge’s orders not to discuss the case. A second trial was held soon afterwards. Beninati was the main witness for the prosecution, testifying that Quick and Kitchen had come over to his house immediately after the shootings. According to Beninati, Quick said he killed two young men while Kitchen watched, and later took Beninati to the crime scene – which was by that point blocked off by police – to prove that he had done it. Quick testified that he had been high on LSD at the time of the murders and could not remember very much from that day, though he did admit to being at the creek. He was convicted on September 11, 1997, and sentenced to death.
In 1995, Shellie Kitchen pled guilty to being an accomplice in the murder and served two years in prison.
Quick’s attorney appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that because Quick was indigent, he was entitled to a free transcript of his first trial, which he had been denied. The Court agreed, and on May 21, 2001, the court vacated the conviction and remanded the case for retrial.
For Quick’s third trial, his family retained a local private attorney who secured pro bono assistance from his friend, Los Angeles attorney Tom Mesereau. This time, Quick testified that while he was high on LSD at the time, he could remember that Beninati had in fact committed the murders. He said that he had not previously implicated Beninati because Beninati had threatened to kill him, Kitchen, and their families if he did. On cross-examination, Beninati demonstrated very in-depth knowledge of the crime scene – he described the logos on the victims’ shirts, the expressions on their faces, and other key details that the defense argued he could not have known unless he was present. The jury acquitted Quick on April 21, 2003.
Shortly afterwards, Quick was prosecuted for three burglaries that occurred before the murders and was sentenced to 76 years in prison.
- Alexandra Gross