A judge from outside of Douglas County will handle a murder defendant’s request to withdraw his voluntary manslaughter plea in connection with the 2006 death of a Lawrence hip-hop artist.
Judge Philip L. Sieve, who has senior status and was previously a chief judge in Wyandotte County, will conduct a hearing on Monday in Douglas County District Court for Major C. Edwards Jr., 31, of Lawrence, a state judicial branch spokesman said.
Edwards pleaded guilty in March 2010 to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the October 2006 shooting of Anthony “Clacc” Vital, whose body was found west of Lawrence. Edwards claims he was not aware he was pleading guilty to intentionally killing someone.
He was the state’s key witness in a trial earlier this year of co-defendant Durrell Jones, 24, of Kansas City, Kan. Edwards testified he saw Jones shoot Vital that night to collect on a drug debt — a claim Jones’ defense attorney disputes. Edwards also said he felt remorse for leading Jones to Vital. A jury deadlocked, and Jones faces a retrial in August.
Edwards now alleges he was misled into entering a plea in the case, but prosecutors disagree. Defense attorney Napoleon Crews said Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild likely asked Sieve to handle the hearing because Fairchild accepted the guilty plea when Edwards was represented by Kay Huff, who has since been appointed a Douglas County judge.
“It’s Judge Fairchild’s attempt to be as fair as possible to Major Edwards,” Crews said.