WICHITA, Kansas – More Wichita police officers are going to be wearing body cameras.

For years, it has been a case of he-said-she-said at police involved crime scenes, but body cameras can help prove truth.

The city still can’t afford cameras for all its officers but, it will have cameras on 50 of them.

It will cost $18,000 to add 10 more to the police department’s list.

If you ask them, it is money well spent.

“Without the video, what you have sometimes is perceptions, and then it’s a matter of trying to determine what’s real, and what’s truthful, what was perceived and perhaps misunderstood with the video that’s cleared up pretty easily,” said Capt. Rusty Leeds, of the Wichita Police Department.

Legal analysts say the cameras are good for both police and citizens, and officers say it’s especially good for accountability.

“Recording police-citizen encounters generally preserves civil rights. For one thing, it protects police from false claims of police brutality, and it protects the citizen from false claims of confession or a waiver of rights,” said Dan Monnat, KSN Legal Analyst.

“When officers know that they are constantly being filmed, they tend to always maintain their professionalism even when faced with adversarial and hostile citizens,” said Justin Cole, Wichita Police Department.

With buying the technology and maintaining it being so expensive, they don’t know if or when they’ll be able to outfit everyone with more than 600 commissioned police officers.

But officials say what they already have has helped a great deal.

“The video has been useful for that purpose, and it’s also been useful in court from anything from traffic tickets to serious felony crimes.”

Officials say all the video is store safely for privacy reasons.

“Some that don’t relate to any crime, an officer gets sent to a location there ends up being no criminal incident, nothing transpires, those types of videos delete after 90 days, all other video at this point is pretty much being retained indefinitely,” added Capt. Leeds.

See video at KSN

KSNW TV – by Ashley Arnold

WICHITA – Police have found the woman who gave birth and surrendered her baby.

The woman was being searched for because she had left the hospital without being cleared to go home.

However, the public release of her photo is drawing fire from supporters of the Safe Haven Law.

Police say that the publicity helped find her so that they could check on her health but others say her picture should never have been in the public eye.

“Anyone that leaves the hospital prior to be medically cleared obviously there is a concern for,” said Lt. Jeff Weible with the Wichita Exploited & Missing Children’s Unit. “That’s why we want to check her welfare, identify her and continue with this investigation.”

The State’s Safe Haven law forbids prosecutors from bringing the woman up on child abandonment charges but the case has drawn fire from national Safe Haven groups upset that police made the woman’s picture public.

“There’s no way a young woman who uses a baby Safe Haven law should ever have her picture, her likeness, her name, even a fake name or any information about her ever put out through public media,” said Mike Morrisey, the founder of the Baby Safe Haven New England group.

However, only 13 states explicitly guarantee anonymity in their Safe Haven statutes and Kansas is not one of them.

“It remains to be seen whether dissemination of the mother’s identity, history and photograph violates any provision of the federal privacy of healthcare records act,” said Dan Monnat, a legal expert.

From 2008 until last September, there have been seven newborns surrendered under the Safe Haven law in Kansas. Only one of those was in Wichita.

Monnat wonders whether the actions in this case will keep other women from using the Safe Haven protections.

“It’s surprising because a provision of anonymity would seem to make it easier for parents to carry out the child protection aspect of the law,” said Monnat.

The other local Safe Haven incident happened at a Wichita police station two years ago.



Article 22: Revised Kansas Code For Care Of Children

Statute 38-2282: Newborn infant protection act.

(a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the newborn infant protection act.

(b) A parent or other person having lawful custody of an infant which is 45 days old or younger and which has not suffered bodily harm may surrender physical custody of the infant to any employee who is on duty at a fire station, city or county health department or medical care facility as defined by K.S.A. 65-425, and amendments thereto. Such employee shall take physical custody of an infant surrendered pursuant to this section.

(c) As soon as possible after a person takes physical custody of an infant under this section, such person shall notify a local law enforcement agency that the person has taken physical custody of an infant pursuant to this section. Upon receipt of such notice a law enforcement officer from such law enforcement agency shall take custody of the infant as an abandoned child. The law enforcement agency shall deliver the infant to a facility or person designated by the secretary pursuant to K.S.A. 2008 Supp. 38-2232, and amendments thereto.

(d) Any person, city or county or agency thereof or medical care facility taking physical custody of an infant surrendered pursuant to this section shall perform any act necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the infant, and shall be immune from liability for any injury to the infant that may result therefrom.

(e) Upon request, all medical records of the infant shall be made available to the department of social and rehabilitation services and given to the person awarded custody of such infant. The medical facility providing such records shall be immune from liability for such records release.

21-3604. Abandonment of a child.

(a) Abandonment of a child is the leaving of a child under the age of 16 years, in a place where such child may suffer because of neglect, by the parent, guardian or other person to whom the care and custody of such child shall have been entrusted, when done with intent to abandon such child. Abandonment of a child is a severity level 8, person felony.

(b) No parent or other person having lawful custody of an infant shall be prosecuted for a violation of this section, if such parent or person surrenders custody of an infant in the manner provided by K.S.A. 38-15,100, and amendments thereto, and if such infant has not suffered bodily harm.

See video at KSN

KSN – by Felix Rodrigues Lima

A teen accused of murder wants statements he made at the time of his arrest thrown out. Attorney Dan Monnat says, “Studies show suspects under the influence of alcohol or drugs have impaired recall and thus are susceptible during interrogation to being fed facts they internalize and then make false confessions…”

See video at KAKE

KAKE TV – by Deb Farris

A drug tax-stamp law that has been on the state’s books for more than 25 years lost some of its teeth last month when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a defendant who has been convicted of possession of marijuana can’t be convicted of possessing the same marijuana without a tax stamp.

The case, State v. Hensley, has prompted the dismissal of a handful of tax-stamp charges in Sedgwick County and is expected to prevent the future filing of such charges in routine drug cases.

“We’re just not going to file them unless there are some exceptional circumstances involved,” District Attorney Marc Bennett said.

The Supreme Court case involved a Saline County man, Michael Rae Hensley, who was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell after officers found 200 grams of marijuana in his freezer in 2007. Investigators also confiscated a baggie containing marijuana, a marijuana roach, some rolling paper and a pipe. Hensley was convicted of possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with no tax stamp affixed and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was placed on probation but appealed the convictions.

Although the court rejected several points of Hensley’s appeal, it agreed that he should not have been convicted of both the possession and tax-stamp charges.

“They arose from the same conduct, and by statutory definition, they constituted a single crime,” the court said in its ruling.

Shortly after its passage in 1987, defense lawyers challenged the Kansas drug tax-stamp law, arguing that charging a person with two crimes for a single act was a violation of the double-jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Randall Hodgkinson of the Kansas Appellate Defender’s Office, who represented Hensley in his appeal, said the court’s earlier decision made it clear that “one is a drug offense and one is tax offense.”

But Hodgkinson said an unrelated Supreme Court ruling in 2003 changed the court’s test for determining what constitutes double jeopardy. He said the new test looks at the individual elements of a law. The court concluded that the elements of the state’s marijuana possession law matched the elements of the marijuana tax law.

Defense lawyer Dan Monnat of Wichita said the ruling was a rare case of the court reversing itself.

“In 1991, the Kansas Supreme Court said you could do this, and then in 2001, the Kansas Court of Appeals said you could do this, and now they’ve decided you can’t do it,” he said. “What this says is you can’t be convicted of both possession of a drug and possession of the same drug without a tax stamp.”

Read full article here

The Wichita Eagle – by Hurst Laviana

WICHITA, Kansas – North of Wichita on the Interstate I-35, the Kansas Highway Patrol is working a “drug check lane” this week.

DUI Check lanes are legal, according to the courts. Drug check lanes appear to be a legal question mark.
“Is it legal? That may depend on who you ask,” says Dan Monnat, a legal analyst and Civil Rights expert in Wichita. “The suspicion (less) stop of a vehicle at a government roadblock is a seizure, subject to the reasonableness requirements of the 4th amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Monnat says, ordinarily, to be reasonable, a search must be justified by some particular suspicion equivalent to probable cause. That means cops have to be careful how they pull someone over.

KSN wanted to see the tactics employed to look for drug runners in the drug check lanes. KSN employees drove past the “drug check lane” signs, and then drove past officers on the side of the road. Officers followed, and ran the license plate of our unmarked car. But, they did not pull us over.

We asked the Kansas Highway Patrol if they follow all cars that drive by the “drug check lane” officers.
“We are looking for routine traffic stops,” says Gary Warner with the Kansas Highway Patrol. “There’s a variety of opinions whether it’s a grey area or not. It’s been successful not only in Kansas, but in other states. So there hasn’t been a big problem on our end that we are aware of.”

Still, some attorneys wonder where the line is drawn, given the courts have ruled in a negative way on drug check lanes.

“Of course any officer may choose to stop anyone for a petty traffic violation,” explains Monnat. “Failing to signal a lane change? Weaving within a lane. However, no law enforcement officer has a constitutional privilege to manufacture a traffic violation that did not occur. Such a stop would be an unreasonable seizure violating the 4th amendment to the United States Constitution.”

See video at KSN

KSNW TV – by Craig Andres

WICHITA, Kan. – The National Trial Lawyers has named Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered attorney Jon McConnell to its Top 40 Under 40 list.  The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 is composed of the top trial lawyers from each state, or regions of certain highly populated states, who are younger than 40.  Membership into The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40 is by invitation only and is extended exclusively to those trial lawyers practicing civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law.

This is McConnell’s second 40 Under 40 honor in the past year, following on the heels of his Wichita Business Journal 40 Under 40 designation last May.

“We are extremely proud of Jon for his natural talents and his successes as a trial attorney,” said Dan Monnat, President of Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered. “It is rare to find such a gifted attorney at such a young age. The National Trial Lawyers see in Jon what we and our clients see every day: Jon’s talented and aggressive defense of the rights of people accused.”

In addition to his criminal defense work, McConnell volunteers countless hours to community causes, including:

      • Temple Attorney for the Midian Shrine Temple, which helps raise money to support 22 Shriners Hospitals.
      • Board Member of American Collegiate Society for Adapted Athletics, an organization that furthers competitive athletic opportunities for disabled students at the college level through tournament competitions.
      • Campaign Manager for Austin Henry’s 2013 American Diabetes Association “Father of the Year Campaign”, which raised more than $20,000 for the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association.
      • First Runner-Up for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year 2012, which raised more than $21,000 for the cause.  McConnell organized six large events and a benefit “Rock The Cure” concert to raise money for the organization.
      • Hillside Christian Church, working with the High School Youth and the Property Committee.

McConnell has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Wichita State University, where he took several opportunities to study abroad.  Through a cooperative program between WSU and the New Scotland Yard, he studied international law in the United Kingdom.  He also studied Spanish and Mexican culture through the WSU Summer Program in Puebla, Mexico.

A graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami, Fla., McConnell is a former law clerk for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Fort Lauderdale.

McConnell is licensed to practice before the federal and state courts in Kansas. He is a member of the Wichita Bar Association, Kansas Bar Association and American Bar Association, as well as the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered, was founded 28 years ago by Monnat and legal scholar Stan Spurrier.  The firm has six attorneys and focuses on criminal defense, white-collar criminal defense, and appellate defense in municipal, state and federal courts.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial for a former Inman police chief convicted on 15 counts of sexual assault on children living in his home.

Michael Akins Jr. was convicted in January 2011 and sentenced to two consecutive “Hard 25” life sentences following two Jessica’s Law convictions for aggravated indecent liberties with underage daughters of his new wife, an employee in the McPherson County Attorney’s Office.

Akins also received another 59-month consecutive sentence for an aggravated indecent liberties conviction involving a third daughter. He received concurrent sentences ranging from six to 63 months for 12 other convictions. He was acquitted on four of 19 charges.

Akins appealed his convictions, citing among other factors reversible prosecutor misconduct in three instances — one involving the cross-examination of a defense witness, another entailing personal comments about the credibility of certain witnesses — and trial error involving improper jury instruction and excluding testimony about previous false allegations of sexual abuse.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, the Supreme Court found that claims of prosecution misconduct and district court error were valid, and consequently adversely influenced Akins’ right to a fair trial. It remanded the case to McPherson County District Court.

Daniel Monnat, a Wichita attorney who argued Akins’ appeal, praised the Supreme Court finding that the prosecutor’s comments denied Akins a fair trial.

“Specifically, the prosecutor posed as her own unsworn psuedo-psychological expert at trial,” Monnat said in a news release. “She misstated the law, and she expressed her personal opinion about the case, both praising the children who testified and calling Mr. Akins a liar.”

“Courtroom theatrics are not evidence,” Monnat added.

Monnat claimed the state’s case was based on statements made by the children that were based on “leading questions” from their mother following her separation from Akins.

Read full article here

Read the full Supreme Court decision here

Topeka Capital Journal

The Kansas Supreme Court, citing prosecutorial misconduct, has reversed child-sex-crimes convictions of a former Inman police chief and ordered that he get a new trial.

In 2011, Michael Akins Jr. was convicted of 15 sex crimes, allegedly committed in 2009 while he was police chief of Inman, a town between McPherson and Hutchinson on K-61. The alleged victims were three girls and a boy, ages 14 and younger. Akins was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus nearly five years.

The high court’s finding was released Friday. Among other things, the court found that the prosecutor made improper comments to the jury. For example, the court found that the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Christine Ladner, was wrong to repeatedly refer to “grooming” of victims for future sex abuse when her comments were not based on evidence introduced at the trial. The state had argued that the prosecutor was referring to “grooming” only in its ordinary meaning, but the high court disagreed.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office said Friday that it is reviewing the court’s decision.

Akins, who testified in his defense, denied the accusations. But the jury convicted him of eight counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, one count of attempted aggravated indecent liberties, one count of indecent liberties, one count of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child, three counts of indecent solicitation of a child and one count of battery.

Akins, now 42, is being held in prison out of state, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records. In the near term, Akins will remain in prison, said Dan Monnat, the Wichita attorney representing Akins in his appeal of his convictions. Monnat said Friday that he would also defend Akins in any future trial and would seek bond so his client would have a chance to go free pending trial.

The Supreme Court also found that the prosecutor improperly “expressed her personal opinion on the credibility of her own witnesses” and was wrong to “offer her personal opinion that the defendant’s testimony was untruthful.” Instead of citing specific inconsistencies in his testimony, she basically told the jury “that Akins could not be believed,” the court said.

The court added: “There was no physical evidence of Akins’ guilt, and he consistently and steadfastly maintained that he was innocent. So the jury was charged with deciding the case based on testimony of witnesses, making their credibility of paramount importance.”

In all, the court found three instances of prosecutorial misconduct. The state argued that the misconduct applied to only a small fraction of the trial, but Monnat contended that each instance of misconduct kept Akins from getting a fair trial.

“We agree with Akins that the prosecutor’s actions denied him a fair trial,” the court concluded.

In a statement Friday, Monnat said: “The court’s message to prosecutors in reversing Mr. Akins’ convictions is simple: If the state wants to send anyone to prison for life on grounds of sexual abuse, it must have the evidence to back up its accusations. Courtroom theatrics are not evidence.”

Read more at Kansas.com

The Wichita Eagle – By Tim Potter

INMAN, Kan. – A former Kansas police chief who was convicted of child sex crimes will get a new trial.

Michael Akins once served as Chief of Police in Inman.

In 2011, Akins was sentenced to two life sentences for sexually assaulting three children.

Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court granted Akins a new trial after finding prosecutorial misconduct.

Dan Monnat, Akins’ attorney, says he’s confident his client will be exonerated at a new trial. In the meantime, he’ll likely ask a judge to release Akins on bond.

Akins has been held at an out-of-state prison because he is a former law enforcement officer.

No date has been set for his new trial.

Read full story here

KWCH TV – by John Boyd

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a former police chief convicted of 15 counts of sexually molesting three girls.

Forty-two-year-old Michael Akins Jr. was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to two life terms. He was police chief in the central Kansas town of Inman when he was charged.

The Supreme Court reversed the convictions Friday, citing misconduct by the assistant attorney general who tried the case in McPherson County. The high court said the assistant attorney general improperly stated comments and opinions that the jury could have construed as evidence.

Defense lawyer Dan Monnat  told KWCH-TV (http://bit.ly/1cLfPAw ) he expects to seek Akins’ release on bond pending the new trial. Akins has been held at an out-of-state prison because he is a law enforcement officer.

Read full article here