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Court mistakenly misses speedy trial deadline in murder case; defendant asks for charges to be dismissed because of it
A few hours after it was supposed to get underway on April 2, a murder trial for the man accused in a Eudora bar shooting was pushed back until, tentatively, June. The judge approved the delay because, defense attorneys said, something in the victim’s medical records was brought to their attention late the previous week that required hiring and consulting an additional medical expert.
I already reported that.
Here’s more about what happened earlier that day in court that I didn’t previously write about:
The morning Danny Queen’s murder trial was supposed to start with jury selection at 9 a.m., his appointed defense attorneys Dakota Loomis and Joshua Seiden had an apparent surprise for the court.
Their client — they said in a motion file-stamped 8:17 a.m. April 2 — had at that point sat in jail a weekend longer than he should have under the state’s speedy trial law, and as such his charges should be dismissed with prejudice.
Missing the speedy trial date was the court’s mistake.
A few hours later prosecutor Amy McGowan filed a response — stamped 11:23 a.m. — rebutting that request, and lawyers then headed into the courtroom to argue the matter before Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel.
Quick background on speedy trial: There has been legislation proposed that would cut down this timeframe, but under current Kansas “speedy trial” law, jailed defendants are entitled to have their cases heard by a jury within 150 days, or about five months, of arraignment. The law does allow for certain exceptions, and it’s not uncommon (at least in major cases I’ve covered here) to see defendants waive their speedy trial rights if they think giving their attorney more time would be in their best interest, as judges put it.
Queen never did that, though.
Queen was arrested at the scene following the fatal shooting of Bo Hopson on June 24, 2017, at D-Dubs Bar & Grill, made his first appearance in court the following Monday and had a preliminary hearing on Oct. 24. At his arraignment Oct. 31, Queen entered a plea of not guilty, and discussion proceeded to scheduling his week-long jury trial.
“The district court incorrectly asked, ‘Speedy trial would run April 30?’” according to a transcript quoted in McGowan’s filing. Also mistakenly, “The state responded, ‘Yeah.’” The judge looked at March dates and ruled out the week of spring break, citing difficulty getting witnesses and a jury in this town, then offered April 2 — and everyone agreed to it.
“Monday, April 2? That works for the defense, your honor,” the transcript said Queen’s counsel responded.
Turns out, the speedy trial deadline was actually March 30, and no one noticed or corrected this until the defense’s motion filed the morning of trial. Loomis and Seiden did not disclose in court at what point they realized the date was outside speedy trial, and they didn’t answer that for me when I asked later, either.
“The court understands that tactical maneuver,” Kittel said, “...so as not to show their hand.”
However, Kittel rejected their motion to dismiss Queen’s charges over it.
First, she said, her courtroom docket is congested with other hearings and trials, which is one potential exception to the speedy trial law. Primarily, however, Kittel said she based her ruling on “acquiescence” (the lay dictionary definition for that is the “acceptance of something without protest”).
“Neither side corrected the court,” Kittel said, adding that both sides had a “duty of candor” to not allow the court to be misled. “Had this court known then that we were going outside the 150 days, I would have moved cases to fit it in.”
Kittel may yet do that, on Monday when Queen is scheduled for a hearing to formally set his new trial date. At the April 2 hearing, the judge and attorneys settled on a few weeks in June as possibilities, though the judge said other cases might still need to be moved to accommodate Queen’s trial — including, potentially, a trial in a manslaughter case that isn’t as old.
This time, Queen did formally waive his right to speedy trial to accommodate his attorneys’ request for more time to get the medical expert. When asked by the judge whether he understood his speedy trial rights and whether he agreed to the delay, Queen told her, “I do understand,” and, “At this time, yes, your honor.”
— I’m the Journal-World’s public safety reporter. Reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 785-832-7187. I’m also on Twitter, @saramarieshep.