A panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday reversed the conviction of a man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence in connection with a 2009 traffic fatality in Franklin County.
The ruling said prosecutors failed to prove one component of the charge against Roger Shaw, who was convicted in the death of Aaron Kichler, 21. The panel remanded the case back to Franklin County for a new trial.
Shaw was convicted of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The incident occurred July 19, 2009, when two brothers, Aaron and Adam Kichler, were driving their motorcycles on Shawnee Road.
Shaw was driving a pickup truck in the opposite direction. The vehicle turned left in front of the motorcycles, and Aaron’s motorcycle hit it.
A nearby resident called 911 and said she could smell alcohol on Shaw’s breath.
Shaw said the sun was in his eyes and that he had a couple of beers before the incident. A blood sample of Shaw’s tested at .11 blood alcohol level, above the legal limit of .08, the court opinion said. Shaw had three previous convictions of driving under the influence, according to the court opinion.
Prosecutors said Shaw’s intoxication caused Kichler’s death. Shaw said Kichler had been speeding, which Adam Kichler denied.
On appeal, Shaw’s attorney argued the state failed to prove all three claims necessary to get a conviction. Those are that the defendant unintentionally killed Aaron Kichler “in the commission of, while attempting to commit, or while in flight from committing or attempting to commit the act of operating any vehicle in this state” while under the influence of alcohol.
Judges Christel Marquardt and David Knudson — two members of the three-judge panel — agreed that the state failed to provide any evidence at trial that Shaw tried to flee.
“In Shaw’s case, we are not reversing his conviction because there was insufficient evidence that he committed the crime of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol; clearly there was sufficient evidence to support Shaw’s conviction based on at least one means of committing the crime. Rather, we are reversing Shaw’s conviction only because, at least theoretically, the jury could have convicted Shaw based on an alternative means not supported by the evidence, i.e., involuntary manslaughter committed in flight from a DUI,” the majority wrote.
But Judge Tom Malone disagreed with the outcome. Malone wrote, “Today, we are reversing Shaw’s conviction due to an error that did not impact the structure of his trial and certainly had no bearing on the outcome of the case. Remand for retrial under these circumstances is both unnecessary and unwarranted.”
— Statehouse reporter Scott Rothschild can be reached at 785-423-0668.