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Archive for Saturday, October 3, 1998

S HEARING REQUEST DENIED

October 3, 1998

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Abraham Orr, a convicted murderer who once tried to escape from Douglas County Jail, won't have that opportunity again, according to a ruling by Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy.

In a short hearing Friday afternoon, Murphy determined that Orr's indefinite sentence of life in prison was legally passed down in April 1994 by then-District Judge James Paddock.

In July, Orr, who is currently being held in the El Dorado Correctional Facility, filed a complaint requesting a hearing on Paddock's sentencing. Essentially, Orr's brief stated that his life sentence should have been assigned a specific number of years.

Jim George, who was appointed last month as Orr's counsel in the matter, said the complaint stemmed from Kansas' new system of sentencing guidelines, which were enacted about the time of the original incident, in which a Lawrence man was shot and killed at Riverfront Park.

However, first-degree murder has always been what the court system considers an ``off-grid'' offense, one to which sentencing guidelines do not apply.

Had Murphy granted Orr a new hearing, he would have been transported back to Douglas County District Court to appear in person -- which, given's Orr's history in custody, would likely have led to heightened security at the courthouse.

In February 1994, prosecutors charged Orr with attempted aggravated escape from custody and kidnapping after his wife, Sarah Orr, Topeka, allegedly brought a handgun into the jail. Orr reportedly grabbed a jailer and threatened to break his neck.

The request for a hearing was the latest in a string of legal wrangling by the 22-year-old Orr, who shot and killed Edward Lees of Lawrence during a failed carjacking attempt in September 1993. After his conviction, Orr claimed his first attorney had acted ineffectively in not pursuing an insanity defense.

That claim was the basis for an appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. Last spring, the state's high court unanimously rejected the appeal, citing psychiatric testimony indicating Orr suffered from an antisocial personality but was sane at the time of the shooting, which took place near the entrance to Riverfront Park.

His victim, Lees, was with his girlfriend and her two children when Orr and two friends approached his Isuzu Trooper. Orr shot Lees through a window when he refused to get out of the vehicle.

Police arrested the trio a few blocks away, near a pay phone by a turnpike collector's booth.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is mgowen@ljworld.com.

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