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Archive for Tuesday, August 10, 1999

PROSECUTORS DROP INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER CASE TO REFILE IT

August 10, 1999

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The case against a Topeka man accused of involuntary manslaughter took a new twist Monday when prosecutors dismissed charges against him in anticipation of refiling them today.

The Douglas County District Attorney's office dismissed charges Monday against a Topeka man accused of involuntary manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of his girlfriend, but prosecutors expect to refile the case today.

Joseph R. Beier Jr., 21, was scheduled to face trial Wednesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit criminal hunting, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

A jury on Friday convicted his friend Donald R. Koch, 21, Topeka, of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Misty Taylor. Koch and Beier were hunting Nov. 24, 1998, when a rifle Koch had in his hand while climbing into the bed of Beier's truck went off, killing Taylor.

The jury said Koch, also convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal hunting, had acted recklessly. Sentencing will be in September.

The case against Beier is different.

Because Beier wasn't handling the rifle when Taylor was shot, Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Dunbar was seeking an involuntary manslaughter conviction based on criminal hunting, arguing that Taylor died as a result of illegal hunting.

But Douglas County District Judge Jack Murphy earlier dismissed criminal hunting charges against Koch and Beier, saying probable cause did not exist.

"We want that in the case, so the cleanest way procedurally to handle it was to dismiss and refile," Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich said Monday.

Beier's attorney, Jonathan Phelps of Topeka, last week filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing Beier was being held unlawfully. A retired Saline County district judge was expected to rule today on the petition, but the issue is moot since Beier no longer is bound over for trial, Phelps said.

Prosecutors dismissed the case, Phelps said, because "they knew that my petition for a writ for habeas corpus was going to be granted. Otherwise, why dismiss it? The case should have never been filed in the first place. When the jury found Mr. Koch recklessly killed this girl, they insulated my client from any liability for it."

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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