Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Gun claim splits robbery verdict

Jury not convinced suspect pretended to have gun at Bath & Body Works

July 31, 2003


Jurors Wednesday acquitted a Topeka man of the most serious charges he faced for robbing a Lawrence store, and they found him guilty of crimes he admitted he did.

"In my discussions with my client, he was willing to admit to the crimes which he was ultimately convicted of," said Shelley Bock, the attorney for Michael L. Sudduth.

Jurors found Sudduth guilty of two counts of robbery and one count of fleeing to elude a police officer in connection with the April 25 robbery of Bath & Body Works, 3102 Iowa. But the robbery verdict came only because jurors weren't convinced he committed the more serious crime of aggravated robbery, which involves use or threat of a dangerous weapon.

Jurors also cleared Sudduth of two counts of kidnapping, which means they weren't convinced he held the store's two clerks by threat or force to help commit the robbery.

Sudduth faces roughly 11 to 13 years in prison, compared with up to 21 years had he been convicted of the more serious offenses.

The question of whether Sudduth pretended to display a gun was the point that caused the most disagreement in the jury room, jury foreman Allison Gallaway said afterward.

Sudduth testified he told the clerks, "I don't have a gun," but the two women claimed they saw something protruding under his sweatshirt that looked like a gun.

"There were multiple members of the jury who were not really sure that they (the women) got a good look at him," Gallaway said.

Ultimately, she said, jurors realized they would never reach an agreement on the aggravated robbery charge.

So they did what Judge Paula Martin had instructed them to do, Gallaway said: They considered the lesser charge of robbery.

"The fact that the jury knew that he was not getting out of there Scot-free -- that there were going to be consequences -- made what we felt was our reasonable doubt more palatable. If we hadn't had that robbery charge to consider, we'd probably still be there," she said.

Sudduth, who continues to be held in the Douglas County Jail, is scheduled to appear for sentencing Sept. 5.

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