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Andrew Lester, a White 84-year-old homeowner who shot Ralph Yarl mistakenly came to his Kansas City home, entered a not guilty plea Wednesday, with the judge scheduling his trial for next year.
Lester is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the April 13 shooting of Yarl.
Lester was charged with one count of felony assault in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action.
Clay County prosecuting attorney Zachary Thompson said the trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 7, 2024.
Some supporters joined Yarl’s mother in the courtroom, with T-shirts reading “Ringing a doorbell is not a crime.”
Following a judge’s order, those supporters were mandated to turn their shirts inside out.
Family friend Philip Barrolle said they wore the shirts that way Wednesday after being told by the court the shirts were a problem. Supporters have worn them in the past, but an order issued Monday barred “outbreaks, signs, or displays of any kind.”
“It is up to us to have our presence felt,” Barrolle said afterward.
Soon after learning Lester had shot Ralph Yarl, the case garnered international attention.
During a preliminary hearing on Aug. 31, Clay County Judge Louis Angles ruled that Lester will stand trial because there was enough probable cause that a felony has been committed.
The ruling came following testimony from 12 witnesses, including Ralph Yarl and his mother Cleo Nagbe.
The shooting occurred on January 27, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri. Yarl and his friends mistakenly went to the wrong house while searching for a party.
When they knocked on the door, the homeowner opened fire and shot Ralph Yarl in the head.
Andrew Lester shot Ralph Yarl and sparked a swift movement
Yarl miraculously survived the shooting, but he suffered permanent brain damage.
Yarl, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after the violent attack, testified that he is still dealing with the physical and mental impact of the incident and recounted the moments before he was shot Ralph Yarl.
Lester’s lawyers have argued that he was acting in self-defense. They say he feared for his life when he saw a group of strangers on his doorstep late at night.
However, prosecutors say that Lester’s actions were unjustified when he shot Ralph Yarl.
They point out that Yarl and his friends were unarmed and that they were not posing a threat to Lester.
If convicted, Lester faces up to life in prison.
The case has also drawn attention to the issue of “stand your ground” laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self-defense even if they can safely retreat. Missouri has a stand your ground law, and Lester’s lawyers are expected to argue that he was acting within the law.