Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Edward Kendricks speaks quietly with lawyer Jason Demastus during his post-conviction hearing.
On Monday afternoon, 21-year-old Endia Kendrick heard her father speak for the first time in person since she was a child.
Standing before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole, Edward T. Kendrick III asked if he could represent himself in his hearing for a new trial on a 1994 murder conviction.
"Let's just say I'm more familiar with the case," Kendrick told the judge when asked why he thought he could do a better job than his attorneys.
The sound of that voice and his request shocked Endia Kendrick and brought her maternal grandmother to tears. Both want Edward Kendrick to finish his sentence—life in prison—for the murder of his wife, Lisa Kendrick.
Nearly 17 years ago, 4-year-old Endia Kendrick and her 3-year-old brother Edward were in the car their father drove to the Lee Highway BP Oil Store, where their mother, Lisa Kendrick, worked. As they sat in the car, Edward Kendrick entered the store and told their mother to come outside, according to court documents.
Moments later employees in the store heard an explosion and one witness stepped outside to see Edward Kendrick standing over his dying wife saying, "I told you so."
Edward Kendrick fled down Airport Road in the car with his two children, threw a Remington 7400 .30-06 rifle out the window and stopped at the airport to call police.
Since his arrest on March 7, 1994, Edward Kendrick has maintained that the gun "went off" as he moved it in the car, putting a bullet into his wife's chest.
Since the first of three hearings began Feb. 11, Edward Kendrick has whispered quietly to his attorneys, Jeffrey Schaarschmidt and Jason Demastus, and rarely looked at the audience.
That audience is a noticeably divided set of family. Seated three rows behind prosecutor Lance Pope is Endia and Edward Kendrick, their maternal grandmother and supportive friends.
Opposite that group sits Whitley Evans, 21, another of Edward Kendrick III's daughters, and nearly a dozen of his family and friends. That family believes the gun misfired and that Edward Kendrick III never intended to kill his wife.
Schaarschmidt told Poole that, under other circumstances, he would not recommend that a client represent himself, but he made exceptions for Edward Kendrick III.
"His legal mind would put to shame every paralegal in this town and many attorneys, too," Schaarschmidt said.
Schaarschmidt has worked on Edward Kendrick's case for six years, so if Poole grants the defendant's request, Schaarschmidt and Demastus will serve as "armchair counsel" during the hearing, advising Kendrick on legal points.
Evans said her father is very intelligent and can defend himself.
"I'm confident he can do it," Evans said. "He knows the law."
Since 1998, Edward Kendrick has obtained a paralegal certification, helped file documents in support of Tennessee Supreme Court cases and worked as the prison law librarian, he told Poole.
Endia Kendrick sees her father's efforts differently.
"He speaks well, and that's it," she said after the hearing. "I really think justice is going to be done and he's not going to get a new trial."
Poole scheduled the next hearing for Friday morning and will rule then on Kendrick's request to represent himself.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...