Floyd Bledsoe, sentenced to life for murder of teen sister-in-law, set free; ineffective assistance of counsel cited

? A man who had been sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 slaying of his 14-year-old sister-in-law near Oskaloosa has been freed by a federal court order.

Floyd Scott Bledsoe, now 32, was denied his constitutional right of effective counsel, according to a ruling last month by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers of Topeka.

Bledsoe was released under a supervised bond and is living in Hutchinson, according to Alice White, supervising attorney at the Paul E. Wilson Defender Project at Kansas University, which won his release.

“His goal is to start anew,” White said.

Bledsoe still faces legal proceedings.

The Kansas attorney general’s office has appealed Rogers’ decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. An expedited hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 17.

Bledsoe was convicted in the shooting death of Zetta “Camille” Arfmann. He was also convicted of aggravated kidnapping and indecent liberties with a child in the case.

Bledsoe accused his brother Tom Bledsoe of the slaying. Tom initially claimed to have killed Arfmann, and he led authorities to where her body was. She had been shot with Tom’s pistol.

But then Tom recanted, saying Floyd had told him to confess or he would expose some things Tom had done in the past.

Floyd Bledsoe denied killing the girl. In his appeals, he alleged his trial lawyer, John Kurth, was ineffective and committed mistakes that led to his conviction.

Contacted by the Lawrence Journal-World, Kurth, of Atchison, defended his work during the trial. “I don’t think the state proved its case, but I didn’t think (the guilty verdict) was my doing,” Kurth said. “We got a bad verdict.”

In a ruling last year, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed that Bledsoe’s attorney committed mistakes but the court said it wasn’t convinced that those mistakes affected the trial’s outcome.

The Supreme Court had said, “Two brothers accused each other of vile crimes. There was ample evidence to support each accusation. Although in the hands of another defense lawyer, the case may have been tried to another conclusion, ‘may’ is not good enough.”

But Rogers disagreed. “It is unclear why ‘may’ is not good enough,” he wrote.

He said there was no physical evidence connecting Floyd Bledsoe to the crime. He said the prosecutor misstated evidence in the case, and Bledsoe’s defense attorney failed to challenge those inaccuracies.