Major Edwards, a defendant seeking to withdraw his plea in connection with the 2006 death of Lawrence hip-hop artist Anthony “Clacc” Vital, claims he was not aware in 2010 he was pleading guilty to intentionally killing someone.
“(Edwards) has maintained from the beginning that he did not murder the victim,” defense attorney Napoleon Crews wrote in a supplemental motion filed earlier this month.
Edwards, 31, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to voluntary manslaughter for his involvement in Vital’s death. He was also the state’s key witness in the first-degree murder trial this year of co-defendant Durrell Jones, 24, of Kansas City, Kan. Edwards testified he saw Jones shoot Vital west of Lawrence on Oct. 15, 2006, to collect on a drug debt. Edwards testified he felt remorse for leading Jones to Vital that night.
Jones’ defense attorney has attacked Edwards’ credibility and accused him of trying to pin the murder on his client. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict in Jones’ trial, and a new one is scheduled for August. In May, Edwards asked for Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild to withdraw his guilty plea alleging he was “misled, coerced, or unfairly taken advantage of during plea negotiations.” Edwards has also alleged attorneys promised he would receive a seven- to eight-year prison sentence but instead was facing 18 years in prison.
Douglas County prosecutors have said they don’t see a basis for Edwards to withdraw his guilty plea.
Crews in his motion said negotiations about a sentence for Edwards continued after his March plea, and he attached letters Edwards wrote to his defense attorney at the time, Kay Huff, who removed herself from the case when she was appointed to become a Douglas County district judge in January. According to a transcript of the 2010 plea hearing, the two sides agreed to ask for a standard range sentence of 18 years in prison.
Crews said prosecutors — in exchange for testimony against Jones — in a May 2010 email to Huff mentioned being willing to ask Fairchild to cut three years from an 18-year sentence, while he could qualify for an additional two-year reduction for good behavior in prison plus credit for already serving four years in custody at the time awaiting sentencing. Crews also filed an undated document — signed by prosecutors, Huff and Edwards — that mentioned recommending a four-year reduction in his 18-year sentence instead.
Fairchild has scheduled a July 13 hearing on the defense motion to withdraw the plea and ask for a jury trial.