Court Roundup

Missouri

Appeals panel blocks KC lawyer's retrial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A Missouri appeals panel has ruled that all evidence against a Kansas City lawyer accused of killing a man in 2000 should be thrown out.

In its 8-2 decision Tuesday, the Western District Court of Appeals found that Jackson County prosecutors could not be relied on to give defendant Richard Buchli all the evidence against him, which is required to ensure a fair trial. The court also said the state's failure to comply with rules was unfair and prejudiced Buchli, according to The Kansas City Star.

Buchli was convicted in 2002 of first-degree murder in the 2000 beating death of 49-year-old Richard Armitage. The conviction was thrown out in 2006 because of evidence not turned over to the defense. Jackson County prosecutors appealed that decision.

In its ruling released Tuesday, the appeals said in the 8-2 decision that the right to have all of that evidence -- called "discovery" -- effectively trumps the state's right to prosecute Buchli.

"There is unquestionably a societal interest in prosecuting cases of murder, but this does not give the state free reign to prosecute this defendant for an indefinite period of time, no matter how many decades it takes the state to comply with its legal obligations," Judge Gary D. Witt wrote in the 24-page majority opinion.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a statement Tuesday that she was "greatly disappointed" in the opinion.

"Excluding all the evidence in any case is an incredibly harsh remedy to a discovery violation," Baker said. "It is a de-facto dismissal of the case."

She said prosecutors are weighing whether they will continue to appeal. If it stands, Tuesday's decision would leave prosecutors without any evidence to prosecute the first-degree murder case against Buchli.

Citing what it described as the prosecution's "cavalier attitude" and "troubling history of discovery violations" in the case, Witt wrote that prosecutors were wrong to argue that Buchli's lawyers already had received "the vast majority" of the state's evidence. That evidence did not include 22 boxes of financial records that prosecutors had held but not disclosed for 10 years.

Pat Peters, Buchli's lawyer, said his client was "thrilled" by the decision and that he was surprised by its forceful tone.

"I'm relieved because it's the right thing," said Peters, whose client has been free on bond since 2008. "If you have a rule that says a judge can exclude evidence because of a discovery violation, then this has to be the case."

Armitage died two days after he was found in his office with his skull shattered by nine blows from a blunt object.

In a 27-page dissent to the majority appeals decision, Judge Karen King Mitchell said the court record does not support applying such a sweeping sanction.

"We are presented with a record that permits us to find that Buchli was at best inconvenienced by a delay in the production of the documents ordered to be produced by the discovery order," Mitchell wrote.

Oklahoma

Life in prison for man who slashed deputy

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- A man who slashed a Cleveland County deputy with a utility knife during a parole revocation hearing is to serve a sentence of life in prison.

Defense lawyers argued that 45-year-old Troy Jefferson Leal only intended to take his own life rather than return to prison. But a jury on Tuesday agreed with prosecutors that Leal's intention didn't absolve him from inflicting a wound that required 18 stitches to close.

The Norman Transcript reports that Leal had prior sex offense convictions in Cleveland and Payne counties.

The attack against Deputy Stephen A. Lucas occurred in 2009. Lucas drew praise for attending to Leal's wounds before his own.

The trial included testimony from a former district judge, his court reporter and attorneys involved in the revocation hearing.

Illinois

Sheriff accused of public indecency on leave

PINCKNEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) -- A southern Illinois sheriff is on leave after being accused of public indecency in a nearby county.

The Perry County Sheriff's Department says chief deputy Mike Plumlee is filling in for 48-year-old Sheriff Keith Kellerman.

Caseyville police say Kellerman and another man were arrested early Friday after an officer allegedly saw them engaging in a sex act in a car in the St. Clair County community.

The two men were issued ordinance violations and are to appear Jan. 12 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Belleville.

A message was left Wednesday with Kellerman's attorney, Thomas Mansfield of Murphysboro.

The Democrat was first elected sheriff of Perry County in 1998. He was re-elected in 2010.

Oklahoma

Ex-death row inmate represents self, wins verdict

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A former Oklahoma death row inmate served as his own attorney in a rape and kidnapping trial and won acquittal on all 11 felony counts against him.

A jury deliberated two hours Monday night before finding 38-year-old Paris Lapriest Powell not guilty.

The Oklahoman reports that Powell, of Oklahoma City, fired his public defenders during the trial and questioned the alleged victims himself. Prosecutors say DNA evidence put Powell at the crime scene but that jurors gave greater weight to inconsistencies in the women's testimony.

Both women worked as strippers and one admitted she lied to police. Powell was freed from death row after winning an appeal of his conviction for killing a 14-year-old during a drive-by shooting.

Powell still faces a contempt charge for obscenely addressing the judge.

Published: Thu, Dec 22, 2011

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