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Supreme Court Rules on 3 Salina Murder Cases

KSAL Staff - January 20, 2017 10:33 am

A southern Kansas man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually attacked a mother of four before fatally setting her on fire.

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld convictions of two Salina men serving prison terms in connection with child abuse deaths, and denied a new trial for a Salina man who is in prison for his role in connection with the death of woman who was beaten to death in 2014.

The Supreme Court upheld the convictions and sentence of Antonio Brown Sr. for the October 2011 killing of 14-month-old Clayden Urbanek. Brown was convicted in Saline County District Court of felony murder, two counts of child abuse, and one count of interference with a law enforcement officer. The court rejected Brown’s arguments that his confession was involuntary because investigating officers ignored his request for an attorney during questioning, that the jury was not properly instructed on felony murder, and that the evidence was insufficient for the charge of interference with a law enforcement officer. Clayden died from injuries he sustained in Brown’s care while his mother was at work. Brown told the child’s mother he fell from a couch. Salina police who arrested Brown found him hiding in the basement of an acquaintance’s home. On appeal, Brown claimed his inculpatory statements to interviewing officers should not be used at his trial because he was denied a lawyer during questioning after requesting one. But the court rejected this argument, noting that after Brown was unsuccessful contacting an attorney, Brown reinitiated the conversation with the officers, repeatedly saying he was willing to keep talking about what had happened. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court held that Brown “knowingly and intelligently waived the previously-asserted right to counsel.” The court also rejected Brown’s argument that he was not interfering with the duties of a law enforcement officer by hiding in the basement after the officers identified themselves and ordered him to come out. The court said Brown’s failure to obey “created an immediate safety issue for both the officers and Brown. And the officers had to engage in additional actions to address the heightened security concerns.”

The Supreme Court upheld the felony murder and child abuse convictions of Troy L. Love, II in the April 2012 death of 18-month-old Bre’Elle Harrington. Love claimed the child fell from a bed and that he found her lying unresponsive on the floor. During an investigation, repeated incidents of child abuse were discovered. On appeal, Love claimed multiple trial errors including the prosecution’s use of autopsy photographs, the trial judge excluding evidence about a medical malpractice lawsuit the child’s mother filed against a doctor who treated the child shortly before her death, comments by prosecutors to bolster the mother’s trial testimony, and the instructions given to the jury. In a unanimous opinion, the high court rejected each argument. Love was sentenced to life with a minimum of 20 years for the felony-murder conviction, and a presumptive sentence of 55 months for the child abuse conviction was imposed and ordered to be run consecutive to the sentence for the felony-murder conviction.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Saline County District Court’s decision to deny Dane DeWeese’s motion for new trial. In 2014 A jury convicted DeWeese of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder in connection with the death Kristin Tyler. In the motion, DeWeese argued the state violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1963) when it failed to disclose a police report to the defense before trial. Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss wrote the opinion for a unanimous court, which rejected DeWeese’s arguments. The court held that the evidence contained in the undisclosed report was cumulative and, therefore, not material under Brady. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s decision.

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