Hearing scheduled Tuesday on bill on expanding DNA searches to closed cases

A bill that would expand DNA searches to closed cases is scheduled for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Room 346-S, in Topeka.

The bill, sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was supported by Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., and human rights activist Alvin Sykes. It also has support from the Innocence Project.

Sykes said the bill now has letters of support from Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Terry Zeigler and Cheryl Pilate, a defense attorney in some cases of wrongful incarceration.

Currently, according to the bill’s supporters, when DNA tests are run, the search passes over closed cases and looks for an open case to compare. But if the search includes closed cases, sometimes a match can be made where another person has already been convicted, according to the bill’s supporters, which raises questions about whether the right person is in prison.

If closed cases are excluded from the DNA searches, information that might exonerate individuals can be missed, according to supporters of the bill. A proposed change to the law would mandate notification for both closed and open cases.

The bill also calls for a closed case task force to develop protocols for a process to be implemented. The proposed task force would include legislators, governor’s office, attorney general, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, indigents’ defense service, attorneys, victim services, and innocence organization litigators. The task force would submit its report by Dec. 1, 2020, under the proposed bill.

To see an earlier story on this bill, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/bill-backed-by-innocence-project-would-expand-dna-searches-to-closed-cases/
Senate Bill 102 is online at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/sb102/.

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Another bill in the Judiciary Committee concerning the wrongfully incarcerated is Senate Bill 106, which would allow the state to seek monetary damages from anyone who knowingly contributed to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of a person, and also would allow criminal prosecution and ouster proceedings. If an individual were a law enforcement employee or a prosecutor for a county or city, and courts ordered that damages should be paid, it would be possible that the county or city would pay damages under the Tort Claims Act, and it is possible that some damages could be paid through the local government’s insurance coverage. The proposed bill, which is in the Judiciary Committee, also would make it possible to seek to recover damages from non-government employees who contributed to wrongful convictions. A hearing was not scheduled on this bill. The bill is online at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/sb106/.

All Payless ShoeSource sites in Kansas City area to close

by Chris Haxel, Kansas News Service

Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource is closing all 2,300 of its domestic retail stores, a company spokesperson confirmed to KCUR on Monday. About 1,200 retail stores outside the U.S. are not affected.

The news was first reported by Reuters on Friday. Sources told the news service the company plans to file for bankruptcy, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy in 2017.

The company began liquidation sales at its American stores on Sunday. Online sales are also being eliminated.

“We expect all stores to remain open until at least the end of March and the majority will remain open until May,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Payless ShoeSource currently operates 14 locations in the Kansas City area. (One of the locations is at The Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas, near Penney’s. Another Payless Kansas City, Kansas, location at Wyandotte Plaza closed several years ago.)

Signs advertising sales of up to 40 percent off were taped to the window of a store at The Landing Mall in Kansas City on Monday morning. A store employee declined to comment.

The company was founded in 1956 in Topeka. After decades of growth, the company — like many mall-dependent retailers — struggled to compete with online retailers.

The company laid off hundreds of employees after closing a distribution center in Topeka in 2008.

Payless ShoeSource maintains a presence in that city but also began moving some corporate operations to Dallas in 2017. At least 350 Topeka employees have been laid off since 2017, according to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The company’s former headquarters building in Topeka was recently put up for auction, the newspaper reported.

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital was among a group of creditors that took ownership of Payless ShoeSource after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2017, Reuters reported. Alden Global Capital also owns Digital First Media, a company known for buying financially distressed newspapers, including the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, and slashing staff to boost profits.

Chris Haxel is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email him at chaxel@kcur.org, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

See more at https://www.kcur.org/term/kansas-news-service#stream/0.