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Defense attorney: After 3.5 years in jail, Cole ‘elated’ to be free

After three-and-a-half years in the Covington County Jail, 0Kanavis Malik Cole walked out of the courthouse in Andalusia a free man Wednesday afternoon, and slept with his 6-year-old son in his arms Wednesday night, his attorney said.

Cole, 26, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of criminally negligent homicide Wednesday. He had been charged with murder and attempted murder in the June 2014 shooting death of Demetrice Lawon Hines, 20, of Opp, The incident occurred at the Little Harlem Club in Opp, where a second man, James Danshay Edwards, also was injured in the gunfire. Edwards testified Wednesday morning that he was not sure who shot him.

Gary Bradshaw of Enterprise, who defended Cole, said, “We don’t know which shot fired inside that club hit that young man, Mr. Hines. The state’s witness said he heard eight shots, and only two were from my client.”

Bradshaw said Cole pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge because he had admitted to firing shots in the building. Cole and his attorney contended that he did so in self defense. Bradshaw had previously sought immunity for his client under stand your ground. Judge Lex Short denied the request. Bradshaw also had sought to have Cole’s $1.5 million bond reduced. That effort also was unsuccessful.

For his part, District Attorney Walt Merrell expressed frustration that no credible witness in the club that night was willing to come forward.

“Trials are always risky propositions,” he said. “When witnesses do not testify as expected and evidence does not unfold as planned, we are forced to salvage what we can.”

For the misdemeanor guilty plea entered Wednesday, Cole received the maximum sentence of one year, with credit for time served, according to a release from the DA’s office. He also agreed to pay $3,000 in restitution, which goes toward Hines’ funeral expenses, Bradshaw said.

“He was elated to walk out of there and go home,” Bradshaw said. “If he had had a million, he could have been out on bond all this time.”

Bradshaw said he prayed with his client before Cole left the courthouse Wednesday.

“I told him he could go home, and use this to change his life. Or you can go home, throw a party, smoke dope, and end up back in the court system. But you can break that cycle now.”