Robert Keegan case had been set to start Feb. 24
By Stephen Floyd for Ashland.news
A white Jackson County man accused of killing a black teenager in Ashland in 2020 has had his trial postponed after the defense requested more time to prepare their case.
Robert Paul Keegan, 48, of Talent, was previously scheduled to stand trial Feb. 24 on charges including second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Aidan Ellison, 19, of Ashland.
Ellison was killed Nov. 23, 2020, during a dispute about loud music outside an Ashland hotel. Keegan claimed the shooting was self-defense, but some evidence gathered by police did not suport his claims.
The case has received national attention due to intensified frustration over the killings of black victims by white assailants, as in the cases of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and Ahmaud Arbery.
On Tuesday, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Barnack granted a motion for continuance by public defender Alyssa Bartholomew, who sought more time to consult with potential expert witnesses. Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull said the prosecution had no objection to the motion, but noted Ellison’s family opposed a trial delay.
This was the first trial continuance granted in the case. A new trial date could be set during a hearing scheduled for April 18.
When asked about the possibility of a plea deal prior to a new trial, Lull said no plea negotiations have taken place.
Keegan was arrested after Ellison was killed around 4 a.m. in the parking lot of Stratford Inn, in Ashland.
Police allege Keegan was awakened due to loud music played by Ellison, whom Keegan said refused to turn down the volume. Keegan asked a motel clerk to address the issue and, while the clerk was speaking with Ellison, Keegan allegedly approached the two men and began arguing with the victim.
At some point during the argument, Keegan allegedly produced a handgun concealed in his jacket and shot Ellison once in the chest. The clerk was in close proximity to the shooting but was physically unharmed.
Keegan told arresting officers Ellison struck him several times in the face prior to the shooting and he was in fear for his physical safety. However, police observed no injuries to Keegan’s face supporting this claim, nor were corresponding injuries found on Ellison’s hands during an autopsy.
Keegan is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm and reckless endangering. He faces at least 25 years in prison and remains held without bail in the Jackson County Jail.
Email freelance reporter Stephen Floyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.