Kansas Supreme Court to hear appeal of KCK murder conviction

The Kansas Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal on Jan. 28 in Topeka of a man who was convicted of killing Louis Scherzer in an alley behind a bar in 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Efrain Gonzalez Jr. is appealing his conviction. He has been sentenced to a hard-25 life sentence followed by 64 months in prison.

Filiberto Espinoza, a passenger in Gonzalez’ car, shot Scherzer. The state’s theory was Gonzalez and Espinoza intended to rob him.

While Espinoza pleaded guilty to killing Scherzer, Gonzalez went to trial. The trial court denied Gonzalez’ request to call Espinoza as a witness.

In his appeal, Gonzalez questions whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Gonzalez of felony murder because his appeal states there was insufficient evidence of attempted aggravated robbery; whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Gonzalez of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery; whether the charges against Gonzalez were multiplicitous; whether the district court erred in denying Gonzalez’ Batson challenge to the state’s peremptory strike of Hispanic venire persons; whether the district court erred in denying the defense counsel’s attempt to have the shooter testify after having pleaded guilty and thereby having waived his right to be free from self incrimination; whether the district court erred in instruction on aiding and abetting; and whether cumulative error denied Gonzalez a fair trial.

Espinoza also has appealed, filing a motion for departure of the mandatory hard-25 life sentence.

His case is on the Supreme Court’s summary calendar, and there will be no oral arguments.

Espinoza pleaded guilty in 2017 to first-degree murder, and the state dismissed additional charges.

When Espinoza filed for departure of the mandatory hard-25 life sentence, the district court stated it had no discretion regarding imposition of the sentence.

The district court did not make any findings about the constitutionality of the hard-25 life sentence and imposed that sentence.

Espinoza’s appeal asks whether the district court erred by holding it could not reduce a mandatory hard-25 life sentence even if that sentence violated the state constitution, and whether Espinoza preserved his constitutional challenge for appeal.

The Kansas Supreme Court is scheduled to hear another appeal from Wyandotte County during oral arguments on Jan. 31.

Willie E. Parker is appealing his conviction of first-degree murder.

Parker shot and killed his boss, Michel Ziade, in 2015 after they were involved in a fight.

Parker was arrested after a six-hour standoff with police.

He moved to suppress his statements arguing his waiver was not made knowingly and voluntarily. The district court also later denied his request for an instruction on voluntary manslaughter.

A jury convicted Parker of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to a hard-50 life sentence.

His appeal asks whether the district court erred in refusing to suppress Parker’s interrogation because, Parker’s attorney states, the officer did not make sure he understood the Miranda warning; and whether the court erred in not instructing on voluntary manslaughter because there was evidence of a mutual, physical fight immediately before the victim’s death.

Colquitt to be featured speaker at GKC Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast Feb. 25

Dustin Colquitt

The 59th Annual Greater Kansas City Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, co-sponsored by more than 30 area mayors, will be held at 7;30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Grand Ballroom of the downtown Kansas City, Missouri Convention Center.

More than 900 persons are expected to attend.

The breakfast speaker will be Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs long-time punter, with a stirring message about faith and football.

Colquitt has been a member of the Chiefs for 15 years and has played in more than 225 games – he holds the franchise record for the longest punt of 81 yards and was the Chief’s nominee for the 2020 prestigious NFL Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award

The Greater Kansas City Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast organization was founded in 1961 by Kansas City, Missouri, banker Clair Schroeder and then Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor H. Roe Bartle to emphasize ethics, morality and spirituality in business, the professions and government.

Over the years thousands of individuals have attended and taken part in the Annual Greater Kansas City Mayors’ Prayer Breakfasts.

Tickets are $50 each. For ticket information, call 816-863-0992 or email kcmph@aol.com. For more information, visit https://kccmpb.org/.

Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis

Rep. Pam Curtis

Opinion column

by State Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

It was a busy week at the Capitol as the Kansas Legislature completed week two of the 2020 session. It is wonderful to see so many visitors from home attending events at the Statehouse and engaged in the legislative process!

The Wyandotte County-Leavenworth County Legislative Delegation’s first luncheon for the 2020 Session was held on Tuesday with KCK Board of Public Utilities as the sponsor. Bill Johnson, general manager, and David Mehlhaff, chief communications officer, provided a presentation about the utility and answered questions from legislators. The discussion and information provided was very helpful. The Tuesday delegation lunches provide a good venue for members to learn and discuss various topics and issues.

On Wednesday I participated in a panel discussion with Sen. Longbine and Rep. Finch at the Kansas Association of Counties and League of Kansas Municipalities Local Government Day. There were some great questions and I appreciated the opportunity to visit with our local officials about matters before the Kansas Legislature. By working together, we can better serve our communities and state.


It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and appreciate your input on issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. You can also email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


On Monday, we celebrated the life and works of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Each year he is honored for his devotion and sacrifice in the name of equality and for the Civil Rights movement.


Constitutional amendment


A proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution, HCR 5019, was heard in a joint meeting of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The amendment would strip women of their bodily autonomy and could potentially open the door to a full ban on abortion in the state of Kansas. The hearing went throughout the entire day, with proponents and opponents testifying. On Wednesday, the amendment passed out of both committees, and was read into the Senate. Thursday, the amendment was read into the House. Thus far there is no word on when the amendment will be worked on either floor.

Equality Day


Thursday was Equality Day in the State House. Much of the crowd consisted of students coming from all over Kansas — many of whom it was their first time in the building. Speakers included Rep. Brandon Woodard and Rep. Susan Ruiz, the first LGBTQ state representatives to be elected in the state of Kansas; State Sen. Barbara Bollier; and Tom Witt, the executive director for Equality Kansas. Among the topics mentioned by the speakers were amending the Kansas discrimination act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; banning conversion therapy and more.


State Library


Explora is an online resource available from the State Library’s web site: http://kslib.info/students. Click on the grade-appropriate icon for assistance with middle school or high school homework or class assignments. Explora delivers high-quality articles from reputable publishers with no pop-ups or ads. Reading level indicators allow selection of material that matches students’ reading abilities. Broad topic overviews provide students with a starting point for their research.

Resources


My Legislative Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK/?ref=bookmarks
My Twitter Account , https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck.
My Website, https://www.curtisforkck.com/?utm_campaign=2020ksleg1&utm_medium=email&utm_source=pamcurtis.
Kansas Legislature Website, http://kslegislature.org/li/.