Kansas Supreme Court upholds conviction in 2016 homicide near bar in KCK

The Kansas Supreme Court today rejected challenges made by Efrain Gonzalez Jr. to his convictions for felony murder, attempted aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

On Nov. 27, 2016, a passenger in a car Gonzalez was driving shot and killed Louis Scherzer outside a bar in Kansas City, Kansas.

The central question on appeal was whether sufficient evidence existed to prove intent to commit a robbery.

Justice Dan Biles wrote the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion.

“What little is known from the trial evidence is that Gonzalez pulled his car up behind the bar after eluding a police traffic stop a few minutes earlier and that the victim was shot,” the court stated. “Nothing showed what might have been said between the victim and the car’s occupants, so the State tried to prove the attempted aggravated robbery by relying on Gonzalez’ text messages shortly before the killing. Arguably, the text messages and circumstances were ambiguous about whether the pair intended to rob the victim, so more was required.

“We hold the evidence sufficient under our standard of review. What tied the ambiguous evidence together was the investigators’ explanations about the meaning typically associated with the language in the texts, as well as a detective’s testimony that one of the pair discussed pinpointing someone for a robbery. Taken together, this provided the jury a sufficient basis to infer the pair’s intention to rob the victim. As for the remaining issues, we hold they do not warrant reversal, so we affirm.”

According to court documents, later on the day of the shooting, police found a trail of blood leading inside Gonzalez’ house, and there was a car matching the description of the one in the shooting outside the house. Police discovered more blood and a .45 caliber handgun inside the house, according to court documents. Then they arrested Gonzalez at the University of Kansas Hospital, where he went for treatment of a gunshot wound to his foot, according to court documents.

Detectives said the occupant in Gonzalez’ car fired the shot that killed Scherzer, and Gonzalez shot himself in the foot, according to court documents.

The decision is online at https://www.kscourts.org/KSCourts/media/KsCourts/Opinions/119492.pdf?ext=.pdf

To see a video of the oral arguments, visit https://www.youtube.com/embed/2tn8kwEsPTo?autoplay=1&rel=0

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