Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2006

Man pleads guilty before 2nd trial to slaying, beating, burglary, gets same sentence

October 12, 2006

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— Joseph Hayden wanted a new trial and a new judge, and thanks to the Kansas Supreme Court, he was granted both.

But during a hearing Wednesday in Franklin County District Court, Hayden, who has been serving prison time for the killing of an elderly woman and the severe beating of her husband, pleaded guilty to the same charges he was convicted of five years ago.

He also received the same sentence: 186 months for second-degree murder, 61 months for attempted second-degree murder and 34 months for aggravated burglary. And just as before, they will be served concurrently. Hayden will be given credit for time already served.

Hayden's court-appointed attorney, Carl Cornwell, told Judge Phillip M. Fromme that he received an unexpected phone call from Hayden several days ago.

"He wanted to take a plea," said Cornwell, a Kansas City area attorney who didn't represent Hayden during the 2001 trial.

Hayden said little during the hearing. When asked by the judge if he was happy with Cornwell's representation, Hayden said he was, but he also noted that he had earlier wanted to represent himself.

Hayden and an accomplice, Raymond Fuller, were convicted in the Nov. 1, 2000, attack on Howard and Vivian Johnson in their rural mobile home. Both were struck with a shovel by Hayden. Vivian Johnson, 85, who was sleeping in her bed and breathing from an oxygen tank, was struck multiple times, according to a coroner's testimony.

Howard Johnson, also 85 at the time, survived his wounds but Vivian Johnson died in a hospital a few days later. Hayden and Fuller were arrested following an investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. They were convicted in separate trials.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that during Hayden's trial, presiding Franklin County Judge James Smith committed judicial misconduct. The court, in a 5-2 decision, found that Smith made "numerous unnecessary interruptions as well as impatient and rude remarks."

In fact, at the end of Hayden's trial, his attorney at the time, Robert Kuchar, and the late John Bork, an assistant Kansas attorney general assisting Franklin County, were both critical of Smith's actions.

Hayden was to go on trial again next week but instead entered into a plea agreement with County Atty. Heather Jones. Fromme didn't have to go along with the agreement and could have ordered the sentences served consecutively.

Though he said Hayden committed "terrible crimes," Fromme also noted that Hayden was 17 at the time and had been involved with drug usage.

"Hopefully you will have a life after prison," Fromme said.

Before the sentencing, Fromme heard from Deanna Adams, a niece of the Johnsons, and Charles Briscoe, who said his wife also was a niece. Briscoe reiterated some of the gruesome testimony from the first trial, saying he wanted the judge to hear what that testimony would have been if there had been a new trial.

Adams told the judge that the Johnsons lived a simple, hard-working life on their farm.

"My uncle was able to recover from his injuries but he was never able to go back to the farm he loved," she said.

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