GARDEN CITY, Kansas – The Kansas Supreme Court is hearing cases tonight at the Garden City High School for the first time in its 154-year history.
The Supreme Court has only heard cases in the evening once before at a session in Hays that drew nearly 700 people in April.
The session is part of an effort for outreach to Kansas communities to help people across the state better understand its work and role in the Kansas judiciary.
According to the Office of Judicial Administration press release, the cases include:
Appeal No. 108,963: Betty A. Born, et al v. Sharon L. Born and Todd J. Born, et al. This is a review of a Court of Appeals decision of a case that originated in Sedgwick County that seeks to resolve ownership interest in a family-owned business after one of the family member/owners died.
Appeal No. 109,995: State of Kansas v. Dontae M. Patterson. Patterson was charged with various drug offenses, criminal possession of a firearm by a felon, and receipt of criminal proceeds after Wichita police searched his vehicle parked in the driveway of premises police had a warrant to search. Issue on appeal is whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the vehicle could be searched because it was parked in the driveway of the premises police had a warrant to search.
Appeal No. 110, 415: State of Kansas v. Charles C. Logsdon. Logsdon appeals a Reno County conviction for first-degree murder and other charges for which he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Questions before the court are whether there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to convict him, and whether the district court committed errors when it denied his motion for mistrial, when it imposed a hard-50 sentence, and when it instructed the jury on the law regarding aiding and abetting.
A huge opportunity for the people of Southwest Kansas to see the state High Court at work.
“It’ll give them an opportunity to think a little bit about how the court system works and the importance of fair and impartial courts in our government,” said Justice, Marla Luckert.
The three cases heard today include a civil case, a search and seizure case and a murder that made headlines in Hutchinson in 2011.
Jennifer Heckel was killed with her young child in the home.
Prosecutors say the men responsible went to the wrong home after planning to rob a meth dealer.
The details of the case prompted the court to schedule a break between the second and third hearings to allow members of the public to leave if they wanted to avoid the descriptions of the murder hearing.
“Especially if we’re on the road, I will sometimes ask lawyers to keep in mind their audience and just provide us enough facts so the audience knows what’s going on,” said Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.
The justices say they try to pick cases the community may already be familiar with but that didn’t happen right in their backyard.
That’s to avoid any bias or people feeling uncomfortable so the closest case heard tonight was out of Hutchinson.
“It’s nice to get out of that cocoon and see real Kansas hard at work, just going about their everyday activities,” Nuss said.
It’s just as rewarding and educational for the justices too.
“When we come outside of our courtroom and outside of Topeka we get a real good dose of reality,” he said.