Craig Peacock Found Not Guilty in Death of Wheeling Jesuit Student
Peacock's friends and family watch him exit the courthouse.
Craig Peacock was found not guilty in the death of Wheeling Jesuit student Kevin Figaniak on Friday afternoon. The jury took 30 minutes to reach the decision. The verdict came in around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon after a full week of testimony. After the verdict was read, Peacock stood and embraced his father, after which Judge James Mazzone discharged Peacock, making him a free man. Peacock told reporters he would move back to his native Florida and look for work.
The jury had to choose between one of the following options: guilty of murder in the first degree, guilty of murder in the second degree, guilty of voluntary manslaughter, guilty of involuntary manslaughter or not guilty.
Jury began deliberations around 1 p.m. Friday, after closing statements were made.
Thursday contained some of the most compelling testimony of the trial. Most of Thursday morning's testimony was from Dr. Jimmie Smith, a medical examiner and assistant professor of pathology at WVU. He spoke about the investigations he does leading up to his autopsies. He talked about the external injuries he found on Kevin Figaniak, including a bruise and scrape on his shoulder and also one on his left eye. Some graphic photos were shown to the jury- some took notes, but most of the time they were listening intently as Dr. Smith described the internal injuries on Figaniak's brain.
Dr. Smith said multiple times that he could not pinpoint one specific injury that would've lead to Kevin's death- rather, the multiple impacts that lead to significant bleeding in the brain and skull. Dr. Smith did note that Figaniak had a fracture at the base of his skull that injured the brain stem- and in that case, he says, almost no one survives
Around noon Thursday, defense attorney Robert McCoid asked the judge to file an acquittal in the case, stating that the incident was not pre-meditated first-degree murder. The prosecution, however, stated that when someone follows a group for length of three football fields, something can build up and they can "intend." After a short break, the judge denied the defense's motion and ruled the case would proceed.
Following that denial, Peacock himself took the stand and it was an emotional testimony. Peacock gave his side of the story about what happened the night of August 30 and into the early morning hours of August 31. He admitted to being very intoxicated and doesn't remember a specific comment that set him off but he remembers how he felt.
"It offended me, it kind of hurt me," said Peacock concerning the comment that has been called "snotty" that allegedly started the entire chain of events. Peacock said he recalls an argument going back and forth but not remembering the specific words exchanged.
Peacock looked jurors in the eye as he continued to recall the physical fight that ensued, and talked about the moment his foot may have come into contact with Figaniak's head saying he was trying to hop over him.
When asked if he remembered kicking anyone in the head, he replied "No sir, I don't."
Peacock also talked about the days following the incident and said when he and Jarrett Chandler turned on their television they saw something about a fight on the news.
Peacock got emotional when asked about his intent in the early morning hours of August 31.
When he was asked if he tried to kill Kevin Figaniak, Peacock said "No sir," again.
On Wednesday, people who encountered the group of five men testified, as well some of those closest to the incident. The night of August 30, two groups of men, one comprised of out-of-state pipeline workers, the other, Wheeling Jesuit students, left the bars they were drinking at. They met up on the corner of Carmel Road and Edgington Lane - one of them singing, another, from a different group, joining in.
But things went south quickly when one of the students, Tyler Johnson, asked where Peacock and his friends went to school. Tyler Witty, the first man on the witness stand, said Peacock responded with, "We don't go to school, we're pipeliners."
That response reportedly sparked another comment from Johnson, in Witty's words: "In kind of like a snotty tone, oh, you don't need school for that." That comment reportedly set Peacock off, and the groups continued bickering as they headed down Edgington Lane.
Eventually, they ended up at the corner of Locust Avenue and National Road, and that's when things turned physical. Jarrett Chandler, who has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case, said he walked away to go to the bathroom and caught up with his friends, who were squared off with Figaniak and Johnson. "I stepped up, said you need to go this way, you need to go this way," Chandler said.
Shortly after that, things got physical, as Figaniak reportedly shoved Chandler. Chandler responded with a punch to Figaniak's chin. He fell to the ground, knocked unconscious.
At the same time,Tyler Johnson and Craig Tyler Peacock were wrestling on the ground, each of them throwing punches.
Witty said he pulled Peacock off of Johnson, and the two started running. That's when Peacock's foot made contact with the left side of Figaniak's head. The prosecution is trying to prove the kick was intentional - the defense, that Peacock tripped over Kevin's unconscious body on the ground. Witty gives his recollection of the kick.
"I don't know whether it was intentional or not, like I said in the interview, I said I thought it was intentional at first, but since I've had time, and since I looked back on it, I don't know whether it was intentional or not," Witty said.
The jury also heard from a frantic neighbor who answered Johnson's knocks at the door, asking for help.
For live updates on the trial, follow Laurie Conway on Twitter here.