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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ex-doctor seeks trial in children’s fire deaths

January 31, 2007

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— A former Johnson County physician who pleaded no contest in the fire deaths of two of her children asked the Kansas Supreme Court to let her withdraw the pleas, citing advances in arson detection.

Debora Green had been in the midst of bitter divorce proceedings with her estranged husband when their Prairie Village home burned in 1995, killing Tim Farrar, 13, and Kelly Farrar, 6. Green and a second daughter escaped.

Now 55, Green is serving a life sentence on the no-contest pleas she entered in 1996 to murder and arson charges.

In court Monday, Green's attorney, Angela Keck, told the justices that a Johnson County judge had committed a "manifest injustice" by refusing to let Green withdraw her pleas.

Green originally had been charged with capital murder and entered the pleas to avoid the death penalty, Keck said.

Since then, Keck argued, advancements in the scientific understanding of fires and arson would allow Green to mount a better defense.

Prosecutor Steven Obermeier countered that Green had "the advice of not one, not two, but three lawyers" before entering her pleas.

The Supreme Court will rule later. Justices, however, noted that conclusions about the fire were not the only evidence against Green.

"There's still abundant evidence of your client's guilt," Justice Carol Beier said.

Green's fight hinges on an expert who disputes original findings that the 1995 house fire was arson.

At a hearing in 2005, a defense expert said a phenomenon known as "flashover" could account for damage that investigators attributed to combustible liquids and that the cause of the fire should have been deemed "undetermined."

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