Citing prosecutorial misconduct, the Kansas Supreme Court has reversed 15 convictions and two consecutive life sentences of ex-Inman, Kansas, police chief Mike Akins Jr.

In 2009, Akins was accused of molesting, inappropriately touching and soliciting his stepchildren. Akins was convicted and sentenced in February 2011. The court remanded the case for a new trial.

Akins’ attorney, Dan Monnat, issued a response to the court’s ruling, noting that the court reversed the convictions due to Assistant Attorney General Christine Ladner committing “multiple acts of misconduct at trial. Specifically, the prosecutor posed as her own unsworn psuedo-psychological expert at trial, 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.”

Akins denied all allegations at trial, and his defense argued that the allegations came out after Akins broke up with the children’s mother.

“The Court’s message to prosecutors in reversing Mr. Akins’s 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,” Monnat wrote in a press release. “Mr. Akins is confident that he will be found not guilty at any new trial.”

Monnat added in the release that the Akins’ decision was “the fourth reversal of a life sentence for sex offenses under Jessica’s Law.”

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Read the Court’s Opinion here

The Pitch – By Justin Kendall

The Kansas Supreme Court reversed a former Inman police chief’s convictions on sexual abuse charges Friday, and a new trial was ordered.

A jury found Michael Akins guilty of 15 of 19 submitted counts of molesting some of his step-children in January 2011.

Under Jessica’s Law, Akins was sentenced to two consecutive hard 25 life terms for two convictions of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

The court also sentenced Akins to 59 months in prison consecutive to the life sentences for one aggravated indecent liberties conviction and concurrent terms ranging from 6 to 63 months for the remaining 12 offenses.

In the appeal, Akins attorney alleged the assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, Christine Ladner, made several errors that denied Akins a fair trial.

An interview technique called Finding Words was used to interview the children in the case. The technique is specifically designed for interviewing children in abuse cases.

The court determined Ladner incorrectly referred to Finding Words as the “gold standard” and cited a case in which the Finding Words was allegedly praised as such.

Ladner also repeatedly referred to Akins’ alleged “grooming” of the children in case, yet did not introduce an expert to testify about grooming as a practice in the sexual abuse cases.

Dan Monnat, Akins attorney, said the prosecutor “posed as her own unsworn psuedo-psychological expert.”

Further, the court determined Ladner improperly praised the children and their testimony as factual and asserted Akins was lying.

Monnat said Akins denied the allegations under oath and has continued to maintain his innocence since his conviction.

“The allegations were based on the statements the children made in response to leading questions by their mother after she separated from Mr. Akins,” Monnat said in a news release Friday.

A spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General’s Office said the office was reviewing the court’s decision today, but did not have a statement at this time.

No information was available as to when the case might be set for retrial.

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McPherson Sentinel – By Cristina Janney

LAWRENCE, Kansas – Freedom of speech. It’s in the First Amendment. Some say it’s been dampened in Kansas.

The Kansas Board of Regents recently announced that speech by University employees that is a detriment to the functions of the University, could be cause for discipline.

The issue stems from a controversy initiated by David Guth, a professor at KU who has been kicked out of the classroom by the University of Kansas. Guth tweeted a very controversial tweet last year about the Navy Yard shootings. Some took offense.

Now, some professors say the Kansas Board of Regents policy could have a chill on free speech. In fact, some say they wonder if they could be disciplined or even fired for talking to the media.

“Even having this conversation, if could come within, potentially, the Board of Regents policy,” says KU Law Professor Raj Bhala. “Of course, I am speaking strictly to you on a personal level now. I am not acting as a representative of the university in this conversation.”

Some attorneys in Kansas say this case, if it progresses, could land at the Supreme Court.

“The United States Supreme Court has long emphasized academic freedom under the first amendment,” says Wichita attorney Dan Monnat. “The issue involved in the Board of Regents policy here, brings up exactly the question that has not been decided by the United States Supreme Court. That is, whether the rule restricting speech of public employees applies in academic freedom and scholarship.”

The University of Kansas did respond to KSN requests for comment on the Board of Regents policy.

“The free exchange of ideas is vital to the success of all universities,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “We’re working with our faculty, staff and the Board of Regents to ensure the Board’s policy respects and preserves that freedom.”

See video at KSN


WICHITA, Kansas – A drug abuse assessment form may become one of the factors that determines which welfare recipients will have to take a drug test to receive benefits.

The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory, or SASSI, has been used for years by the Department of Children and Families to assess whether people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits. Until now, it had mostly been used to screen people who need treatment.

But starting in July, it could be one of the deciding factors in who will have to submit a drug test to continue receiving welfare benefits, raising concerns from legal experts.

“How many constitutional rights might a person be required to give up in order to feed her or his family?” KSN legal expert Dan Monnat said.

The assessment is a two-sided piece of paper that asks a variety of questions. Many of them are true or false questions, but it also asks about the reasons a person drinks or does drugs and the effects alcohol and drugs have on the person.

“Part of that is looking at underlying beliefs and attitudes that might be related to substance abuse disorders, and then there’s the overt, yes this person is doing something that is directly related to substance abuse disorder,” Chenoa Simmons-Daniels, a drug counselor at Higher Ground in downtown Wichita, said.

Simmons-Daniels and others use the SASSI assessment to help identify whether a client has a problem.

“No tool is perfect, so we definitely would hope that it not just be, you know, you walk into an office, do the SASSI, and that just determines your future,” Meredith Reuter, another drug counselor, added. “We would hope there would also be interaction with someone skilled and knowledgeable in substance abuse.”

When state lawmakers approved the program last year, they wrote into the law that people with established “reasonable suspicion” of drug abuse would be the ones subject to drug screening. Whether the screening establishes that is up for debate, Monnat said.

“The question is, will it be determined based upon a psychological test for substance abuse or is that itself a search requiring the predicate of reasonable suspicion?” he said.

Counselors like Reuter vouched for the assessment’s accuracy.

“We have had people take the SASSI where their results probably came out similar to what a substance abuser’s would look like, but for various reasons, there were other things that impacted the outcome of the test,” Reuter said. “So I would say it’s an accurate representation of a person, but there’s definitely other things that need to be taken into consideration.”

Although the process has not been fully determined, for those that have to test, if they test positive, benefits would likely be suspended until the person completes a treatment program.

See video at KSN

KSNW TV – by Felix Rodrigues-Lima