Archive for Wednesday, March 9, 1994


March 9, 1994


Officials tightened security today outside a courtroom where an 18-year-old Topeka man went on trial for killing a Lawrence man in a failed carjacking.

A trial stemming from a Sept. 13 carjacking homicide began this morning amid the tightest security measures ever put in place at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

Attorneys began selecting jurors about 10 a.m. today for the trial of Abraham M. Orr, 18, Topeka, who is charged with felony murder and attempted aggravated robbery in the shooting death of Edward D. Lees, 29, Lawrence.

Before proceedings began, Douglas County sheriff's officers took their posts at metal detectors placed at the two entrances to the building's main floor, which houses the courtroom where Orr is being tried.

Officials said today marked the first time that an entire floor has been secured. In the past, detectors have only been set up outside individual courtrooms.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells said an alleged jailbreak attempt by Orr on Feb. 27 spurred today's security arrangements.

Prosecutors allege that during visiting hours that day, Orr's wife brought a loaded gun into the jail and had planned to kidnap a jailer and free Orr. The gun went off during the attempt, which failed after jailers wrestled the weapon from Orr's wife and subdued Orr, who had reportedly grabbed and threatened to kill a jailer.

Orr and his wife have been charged in the incident and are awaiting preliminary hearings.

Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said security for the trial grew from discussions he had with Wells, Douglas County District Judge James Paddock -- the trial judge -- and defense attorney Randy McGrath.

"It was a response to concerns from everybody involved," the sheriff said.

Orr was arrested along with Topekans Courtney Crockett and James Wadley shortly after they reportedly tried to rob Lees of the vehicle he had driven to the park. The three Topekans were 17 at the time.

Prosecutors claim that Orr shot and killed Lees after the victim refused to give up the vehicle.

Orr was charged as an adult because of adjudications on two previous juvenile offenses -- robbery and attempted robbery -- in Shawnee County. He was the only one of the three teens to be prosecuted in adult court.

Crockett and Wadley were named on juvenile complaints alleging attempted aggravated robbery and felony murder.

During separate hearings before 12-member juries, Crockett was found responsible for attempted aggravated robbery and felony murder; and Wadley was found responsible for attempted aggravated robbery.

Both are awaiting disposition hearings, the juvenile equivalents of adult sentencings.

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