Metro-East News

East St. Louis killer sentenced, could be out in eight years

Brandon M. Kirkendall
Brandon M. Kirkendall Provided

The four prior felony convictions of violence that couldn’t be heard during Brandon Kirkendall’s murder trial were a significant part of the state’s arguments Friday to imprison the man for the maximum sentence of 20 years.

The judge, however, sentenced Kirkendall to 16 years in prison for killing Samuel “Jamal” Brown on July 22, 2016. Judge Robert Haida structured the sentencing so that with good behavior, Kirkendall could be free in eight years.

Brown had been trying to enter the apartment of Kirkendall’s pregnant sister, where the mother of his child had previously lived. Kirkendall’s sister called him for help. The two men talked outside the apartment, with prosecutor John Trippi saying that witnesses described a normal conversation “with no yelling,” when Kirkendall shot Brown four times.

Between the end of the phone call and the gun being fired, Kirkendall had time to consider his actions, Trippi said in court.

“He had 30 minutes to find a better way ... rather than carry out vigilante justice,” Trippi said during arguments Friday at Kirkendall’s sentencing hearing.

The prosecution reminded the judge of “shocking testimony” from the defendant in which he admitted carrying a gun illegally, destroying evidence, encouraging his sister to hinder the murder investigation and fleeing the state. Kirkendall was arrested in Indiana, where his attorney said he was for his traveling job.

“He had a temper problem, an anger problem and a history of violence,” Trippi said while arguing for the maximum sentence, noting that previous prison sentences had not deterred Kirkendall from violence, and he had been in a fight in St. Clair County Jail while awaiting trial.

The defendant offered what Judge Haida later called “honest” apologies, and his attorney called Kirkendall’s “mistake understandable.”

Kirkendall took a long moment before beginning his statement to the court, turning first to Brown’s mother and sister to apologize for their “indescribable pain” that he caused.

Grant Menges, Kirkendall’s attorney, said his client believed he needed to defend himself, and the jury agreed in finding him guilty of second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder.

“Letting him out sooner does more good,” Menges said, citing Kirkendall’s young daughter and the unlikelihood that similar circumstances will again occur.

“The sooner he gets out, the sooner he starts contributing to society again,” Menges said.

The sentence is for 16 years, served “day-for-day” at 50 percent, which means every day of good behavior reduces the sentence by one day. Kirkendall could be out of prison in eight years and then have two years of parole.

Haida told Menges, “You’re not going to kill another person, at least not another free person, while you’re incarcerated.”