The defense attorney for a Lawrence man accused of running over and killing a Kansas University student in September 2006 is asking jurors to find his client guilty of a lesser charge.
Joshua Walton, 25, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the drunken driving crash that killed Ryan Kanost, 22.
During opening arguments this afternoon in Douglas County District Court, Walton's attorney Tom Bath admitted that Walton was responsible for Kanost's death, but he said prosecutors have sought too serious a charge. He recommended misdemeanor vehicular homicide.
"We believe you'll find he's guilty of vehicular homicide, resulting in the death of Ryan Kanost in a grossly negligent manner," Bath said. "Witnesses tell you he was speeding and struck pedestrian. It's that crime he's violating. We believe evidence will not be proven he committed the crime of involuntary manslaughter."
But Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson told jurors that witnesses would detail how much alcohol Walton drank throughout that night. Branson said a friend tried to give Walton a ride home from a bar, but he declined.
Kanost was struck by a northbound car while crossing Kentucky Street at 13th Street with friends in the early morning hours of Sept. 23, 2006. Branson said Walton drove off and met friends, telling them he believed he struck something but didn't know what it was.
Walton reported to the Lawrence police station the next day after his friends saw news coverage that someone had been struck and killed with a car in the Oread Neighborhood.
"The defendant made a choice to drive that night, and because he made that choice, someone is dead," Branson said.
Prosecutors charge Walton with involuntary manslaughter, or unintentionally killing Kanost while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A conviction carries a sentence from 38 months to 172 months in prison. He also faces a misdemeanor count for leaving the scene of an accident.
Bath is seeking a conviction of misdemeanor vehicular homicide, which is the unintentional killing of someone while driving in a manner that creates unreasonable risk or injury. The maximum penalty of a conviction is 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Walton is free one $25,000 bond.