Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Comment made during trial four years ago dissected by Kansas Supreme Court

October 23, 2012


— A comment made by a Douglas County prosecutor in a murder trial four years ago became the focal point of discussion Tuesday before the Kansas Supreme Court.

In 2008, Shanna Friday was sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison for the beating death of Jerry Deshazer, 62, who bled to death from a head wound he suffered during a dispute after a night of drinking at his southeastern Lawrence mobile home.

During the trial, Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan urged the jury to find Friday guilty and give Deshazer back his dignity.

On Tuesday, Shawn Minihan, an attorney with the Appellate Defender Office and representing Friday in her appeal, told the Kansas Supreme Court that the comment was out of bounds and represented prosecutorial misconduct.

But Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said the comment was made to rebut Friday's defense, which alleged Deshazer was a mean drunk.

Minihan argued that prosecutors should have rebutted that defense with testimony that showed Deshazer behaved when he drank, or that his behavior was irrelevant. "They didn't. They chose to attack the defendant's theory of defense," he said.

Justice Lee Johnson asked Branson how the "Give the victim his dignity back" comment had anything to do with helping the jury weigh the evidence. "What was the purpose of that?" he asked.

Branson conceded that the comment "probably shouldn't have been said." But, he said, the comment showed the recklessness of the crime. "They beat this person who was left to bleed to death," he said.

Friday, now 41, has said she was not responsible for Deshazer's death.

A co-defendant, Jerod Buffalohead, had testified during Friday's trial that he saw Friday striking Deshazer with a glass bottle in the face and head during a drunken argument. Buffalohead pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.


footnote2 5 years, 7 months ago

What if the prosecutor had urged the jury "to do the right thing." Would that have constituted prosecutorial misconduct in the eyes of the defense attorney? How does the meaning and intent of "give the victim his dignity back" differ from "do the right thing" under the laws of Kansas?

irvan moore 5 years, 7 months ago

i'm betting taxpayers are picking up the tab on both sides of this one

Eddie_Haskell 5 years, 7 months ago

Chalk up another smooth move for Amy McGowan. I can't believe she still has a job.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually the appellate defender is doing its job. Each and every criminal defendant deserves a zealous defense regardless of the crime accused of. Innocent people do get convicted. Do you want it to be you?

BlackVelvet 5 years, 7 months ago

Talk about splitting hairs.......surely wouldn't want to hurt the defendant's feelings.....

kimk 5 years, 7 months ago

How much misconduct can one prosecutor commit before Branson realizes that the whole ship is going to go down unless he cuts McGowan loose? Didn't she just lose that big trial last week? With DNA? Branson needs to wise up.

kimk 5 years, 7 months ago

Or, more likely, a weak prosecutor and a totally incompetent police force.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 7 months ago

She claims Buffalohead did it, so anyone know what evidence they had the she did it, other then him saying she did.

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