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.

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