Lancaster County Judge: Convicted killer cannot withdraw guilty plea

LANCASTER — A convicted murderer is not allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to beating a man to death on a Lancaster city street, a Lancaster County Judge has ruled.

Dajour James, 25, is serving 14 to 28 years in prison for killing 45-year-old Charles Kronenberg IV in May  2016, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Kronenberg was involved in a verbal altercation with James’ relative before James went to the scene and repeatedly punched and kicked Kronenberg, who died two days later.

The relative video-recorded part of the beating, the DA’s Office said.

In recent filings, James claimed:

  • He did not knowingly plead guilty to third-degree murder.
  • His attorney did not pursue existing defenses in the case, including self-defense justification and an alibi defense.
  • His attorney did not pursue character evidence to present in defense.

Lancaster County Judge Merrill Spahn Jr. dismissed requests for relief, meaning James cannot withdraw the plea or avoid its imposed terms, according to the DA’s Office.

Judge Spahn offered the following in response to James’ claims, the DA’s Office said:

  • James did knowingly plead guilty as illustrated in a signed document that meticulously explained what James was pleading to and the legal impact of such a plea. Additionally, James said in court that he understood everything about the plea. James “is bound by the statements he made in open court while under oath and cannot now make contrary assertions that is plea was entered involuntary or that he was dissatisfied with trial counsel,” Judge Spahn wrote.
  • James’ assertion that he had an alibi and supporting evidence is without merit. James specified no such witness or evidence. “To the contrary, the beating… was captured on video, which clearly identified [James] as perpetrator of this assault,” Judge Spahn wrote.
  • James’ assertion that the beating was justified is without merit; the video shows James attacked Kronenberg as he was seated on his porch.
  • Character evidence would not have offered a defense. In fact, as presented by the Commonwealth in pre-trial motions, James beat another person five weeks before the murder — again at the request of the same relative involved in the altercation with Kronenberg.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman prosecuted the case. Assistant District Attorney Travis S. Anderson represented the Commonwealth in the post-conviction process.

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