Jury can hear about Kzoo murder suspect’s escape

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge has limited what prosecutors can tell a jury about the jail escape of a Kalamazoo man accused of murdering his girlfriend.

Donnovan Lewis’ attorney and prosecutors argued their cases before a judge at a Tuesday motion hearing.

Lewis is accused of killing his girlfriend Aniya Mack, a 24-year-old Western Michigan University student, stuffing her body in a suitcase and then tossing it in a creek in June 2018.

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An undated courtesy photo of Aniya Mack.

He’s already in prison for escaping from the Kalamazoo County Jail about three months after Mack died. He was recaptured in about half an hour.

Lewis’ defense attorneys wanted the escape case completely excluded from the murder trial, saying it could prejudice the jury against him.

“We don’t dispute there was a confession, we don’t dispute there was a killing. The question is what does that amount to,” defense attorney Alan Koenig argued. “In large part, that’s going to relate back to intent at the time, not three or four months into the future when someone is incarcerated at a county jail and decides they are going to escape from that facility. This isn’t a situation where somebody is escaping from the scene of the crime that we are on trial for.”

“His state of mind at the time he killed Aniya Mack is an issue. His state of mind subsequent to his killing of Aniya Mack when he jumped the fence is an issue,” Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Reisterer rebutted. “So we are asking the court to allow the people to put on relevant evidence that is not unfairly prejudicial.”

Judge Paul Bridenstine ruled that the prosecution could mention the escape but not talk about Lewis’ conviction and prison sentence.

“The pertinent and relevant evidence to show the defendant’s possible state of mind is that he fled soon after being charged with the incident offense,” Bridenstine said. “The government is limited to presenting evidence on this and only this point at trial.”  

The murder trial is scheduled to get underway Aug. 8.

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