Archive for Friday, May 27, 2011

Lawrence man wants guilty plea withdrawn in 2006 murder of hip-hop artist Anthony ‘Clacc’ Vital

May 27, 2011

Advertisement

Major C. Edwards Jr., left, and Durell Jones face murder charges in the October 2006 shooting death of Anthony "Clacc" Vital.

Major C. Edwards Jr., left, and Durell Jones face murder charges in the October 2006 shooting death of Anthony "Clacc" Vital.

A 31-year-old Lawrence man is asking a judge to withdraw his guilty plea in the 2006 shooting death of a Lawrence hip-hop artist alleging he was mislead into taking the deal.

Major C. Edwards Jr. pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter March 19, 2010, for the death of Anthony “Clacc” Vital, who was found dead Oct. 15, 2006, in a rural driveway west of Lawrence.

Now Edwards claims he was promised he would receive a seven- to eight-year prison sentence but instead is facing 18 years for his voluntary manslaughter conviction.

Edwards was also the state’s key witness in the first-degree murder trial earlier this year of co-defendant Durrell Jones, 24, of Kansas City, Kan. Edwards alleged he led Jones to Vital when he knew Jones had a firearm and wanted to collect on a drug debt. Edwards also alleged Jones later threatened him with a gun to keep driving the vehicle west of Lawrence and that, once they stopped in a rural driveway, Jones shot Vital.

Jones’ defense attorney John Kerns had argued to jurors Edwards was not credible and was trying to get a lesser sentence by pinning the murder on Jones. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict in Jones’ trial, and Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild declared a mistrial and has scheduled a new trial for August.

Edwards’ defense attorney Napoleon Crews said the motion to withdraw his client’s guilty plea focuses on the various communications between Edwards and his attorney at the time, the former attorney and prosecutors and what was said during the plea hearing.

Edwards’ attorney for the plea was District Judge Kay Huff, who left her private practice in January when she was appointed to be a Douglas County judge.

“Negotiations regarding prison time were ongoing and occurred months after my client actually pleaded guilty,” Crews said. “Inconsistencies exist throughout the various lines of communication and bear directly on whether the plea was entered knowingly and under fairness, especially in the face of testimony under oath that Mr. Edwards did not in fact murder the victim.”

During a brief hearing Friday morning, prosecutors said they needed more information than what was in Crews’ one-page motion.

“As it exists now, it contains a number of broad allegations that the state would have a hard time defending against,” chief assistant district attorney David Melton told Fairchild in court.

Fairchild scheduled a hearing on the defense motion for July 13. Edwards is expected to testify. Melton also said prosecutors anticipate Huff may need to be called as a witness. Crews said the defense did not intend to call Huff to the stand.

The defense motion asks Fairchild to withdraw the plea and set Edwards’ case for a jury trial. According to the motion, Crews alleges Edwards was not sufficiently questioned about his understanding of the plea negotiations and the consequences of entering the guilty plea, including discussion he had with Huff about the plea.

According to a transcript of the plea hearing on March 19, 2010, chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan said the two parties agreed to ask Fairchild to give Edwards a standard range sentence of 18 years in prison based on his criminal history.

Huff agreed and told Fairchild they had also agreed prosecutors would recommend the judge order his state prison sentence run concurrently with his five-year federal sentence after he pleaded guilty to unlawfully carrying a sawed-off shotgun.

When answering questions from Fairchild at the plea hearing, Edwards said he understood that the judge was not required to follow sentencing recommendations from lawyers. Edwards also told the judge no one had made any threats or promises to him other than the negotiated plea agreement, according to the transcript.

Fairchild accepted Edwards’ guilty plea in 2010 based on testimony at a November 2008 preliminary hearing in the case.

District Attorney Charles Branson said Edwards’ allegations in his motion were not specific. Branson said Edwards had competent counsel at the time of the plea and that Fairchild properly questioned Edwards in court before accepting the guilty plea.

“Without further details,” Branson said, “we see no basis for him to withdraw his plea.”

Comments

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

Throw the lot of 'em in jail and throw away the key.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

This is actually an interesting issue to me.

If it's true that judges can throw away plea agreements as far as sentencing, that fact should be explained very clearly to defendants.

As far as I know, defendants often agree to a guilty plea in exchange for lower sentences, and might not do so if they knew the sentence could be longer.

At the very least, they should have all of the information available and accurate at the time of the plea agreements.

Paula Kissinger 3 years, 11 months ago

No, at the very least they should not be guilty and have THEIR attorney explain all aspects to them. Sorry for your bad luck, Junior. You ponied up so now you pay up.

Steve Jacob 3 years, 11 months ago

Edwards is mad that he in jail and Jones might not be. Thinking the DA will have trouble proving which one fired the shot to a jury.

somebodynew 3 years, 11 months ago

"According to a transcript of the plea hearing on March 19, 2010, chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan said the two parties agreed to ask Fairchild to give Edwards a standard range sentence of 18 years in prison based on his criminal history." "When answering questions from Fairchild at the plea hearing, Edwards said he understood that the judge was not required to follow sentencing recommendations from lawyers. Edwards also told the judge no one had made any threats or promises to him other than the negotiated plea agreement, according to the transcript."

Sure sounds to me like it was all discussed and he agreed to it. I agree with srj - he saw that Jones had a hung jury, so now he wants a "do-over". Sorry, stay where you are.

Reuben Turner 3 years, 11 months ago

well i be... i sure hope someone is learning from this. it's sho' is sad, but i hope he stays right where he is. he wasn't doing anything positive/productive when he was out anyway. maybe he can find something positive to do while he is locked up.

countrygal07 3 years, 11 months ago

NEVERLESS, THIS ISNT THE FIRST TIME AMY MCGOWAN HAS PROMISED ONE THING AND DONE ANOTHER. LESSON LEARNED AMY MCGOWAN ISNT A WOMAN OF HER WORD. HOWEVER, I DO FEEL THIS GENTLEMAN BELONGS WHERE HE IS AT FOR THE CRIMES HE HAS COMMITTED, BUT IT ISNT THE FIRST TIME AMY MCGOWAN HAS LIED AND PROMISED ONE THING HAD A PERSON ACCEPT A PLEA AND CHANGED IT AT THE END. SHE IS A NIGHTMARE FROM HELL...

somebodynew 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't see her that way, but even if that is true. Where are these people's attorneys ???? OK, I know in this case we are talking Kay Huff, but give me a break. If a plea deal isn't what the defense thought it was the attorney would be standing up and objecting to the judge before sentence is pronouced. One thing you have to keep in mind is the Judge can not follow pleas deals and everyone knows that before sentencing. It sould like in this case the actually time to be spent was discussed in court and everyone agreed. Well, until now when he thinks he might have a better shot at getting off.

Too bad, so sad. Stay where you are, the citizens are much better off. And hopefully, Drako will be joining you soon.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

If everybody knows that judges don't have to follow the deals, then they're informed enough for me.

But, it's hard to understand why anybody would make the deals, given that fact. Part of the whole point of plea bargains is for lower sentences.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

You're rolling the dice. You're hoping the judge will go along with the plea deal. Both attorneys have some reason to believe the judge either will or will accept the plea based on past experience. The accused then can either accept or go to trial. But while we're bemoaning the fact that a person may not get the benefits of the plea deal, that person is pleading guilty to a crime that is less severe than that which they were accused and probably guilty of.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

You have a lot more faith in presumption of guilt than I do.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

The accused always has the right to go to trial, where the rules strongly favor them. But once they plead guilty in a plea bargain, then I do indeed presume them to be guilty.

Tanner Stumbaugh 3 years, 11 months ago

I really think they should get the max sentences, because, after all, they did kill the man. Its called Justice. Even criminals want the easiest way out. Sorry, you're now property of the state! :-P

Commenting has been disabled for this item.