Olathe A former school janitor serving life in prison for the 1974 killing of a 13-year-old Johnson County girl is seeking to have his conviction thrown out over what he says was judicial error at his second trial for the slaying.
John Henry Horton, 64, was in a Johnson County courtroom Tuesday, where a judge listened to testimony from several witnesses. Several others, including former Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, were expected to testify in May before the judge rules on whether to reverse Horton's conviction, The Kansas City Star reported.
Horton was convicted in 2004 and again in 2008 of killing Lizabeth Wilson, who disappeared while walking to her Prairie Village home from a swimming pool and who was last seen near the high school where Horton worked. Her remains were found later in a Lenexa field.
Horton was charged after Prairie Village police reopened the investigation and found a witness in 2002 who said Horton had used chloroform to knock her out and sexually molested her at around the time Lizabeth disappeared. Chloroform had been found in the trunk of Horton's car after Lizabeth's disappearance.
The Kansas Supreme Court threw out Horton's 2004 conviction after ruling that the testimony of the alleged chloroform victim should not have been allowed.
When Horton was tried again in 2008, the judge again allowed testimony about the alleged chloroform incident after prosecutors also presented evidence from two prison inmates who testified that Horton told them he killed the girl accidently after using chloroform so he could molest her.
After the case went to the jury, Horton's lawyers asked the judge to suspend deliberations so they could translate and analyze tapes of phone conversations in Spanish between one of those inmates and his mother. The defense contended that the inmate told his mother that a prison guard was recruiting the inmate to testify against Horton because of problems with another inmate witness.
The judge said he did not have the authority to stop the deliberations to allow the defense to present that additional evidence.
The Supreme Court later ruled that the judge had the authority to suspend deliberations and ordered another hearing to determine what the defense's proposed evidence would have been and if it was significant enough to throw out the conviction.
Among those who testified Tuesday was Bob Stephenson, a prison staffer who called Johnson County prosecutors when an inmate told him he had information about the Horton case. Stephenson said he did not feed information to the inmate about the case, and didn't know anyone else at the prison who would have done that.
The Spanish interpreter who was asked by Horton's lawyers to listen to tapes of recorded conversations testified Tuesday that she didn't remember specific information from the tapes or her conversations about them with Horton's lawyers.