The Kansas Court of Appeals recently upheld murder and human trafficking convictions in separate northwest Kansas cases — so-called unpublished opinions because the cases don’t break new ground.
Now, however, the decisions are being published, but only online in a less formal forum. They still won’t be included in bound volumes, the official version that’s cited in legal documents and court proceedings.
Previously, copies of the unpublished decisions had to be requested from court officials in Topeka. That took time, and sometimes at a price.
The first round of unpublished cases going online are from decisions handed down Sept. 4.
Two of the 26 decisions posted that day stem from cases on appeal from Osborne and Logan counties. Another 17 cases were posted Friday, but none were from northwest Kansas.
The Osborne County case stems from the first-degree murder conviction of Kenneth E. Wilson.
Wilson, now 51, claimed ineffective assistance of counsel, was sentenced to life in prison — without the possibility of parole for 50 years — in 2010, for the brutal first-degree murder of Scott Noel, a Portis farmer, on March 25, 2008.
A year later, Senior Judge Jack Burr, Goodland, sentenced accomplice Delbert McBroom, 45, to life in prison for first-degree murder.
In its decision, the appeals court panel said Wilson’s claim failed to show prejudice, “meaning that there is a reasonable probability the jury would have reached a different result absent counsel’s deficient performance.”
This is the second time Wilson has appealed his sentence, the first case going to the Kansas Supreme Court, which upheld his sentence.
The second case, out of Logan County District Court, was an aggravated human trafficking case involving a Minnesota man.
The appeal by Preston Sanders, 29, St. Paul, Minn., was upheld in part and remanded for resentencing on the amount of time he will remain on parole once he is freed.
A Logan County jury on Oct. 3, 2013, found Sanders guilty of transporting a person under the age of 18, knowing that person would be used for sexual gratification of another. He also was found guilty of transporting an open container of alcohol, furnishing alcohol to a minor and driving on a suspended license. He was sentenced March 12, 2014, to 147 months in prison on the trafficking charge.
“On appeal, Sanders argues that he should have been charged with promoting prostitution rather than aggravated human trafficking,” the court decision states, and “the state presented insufficient evidence, that the trial court should have instructed the jury on the word ‘used,’ and that the trial court imposed an illegal sentence. We affirm Sanders’ convictions but remand for resentencing.”
The case first started Dec. 30, 2011, when Sanders was stopped on Interstate 70 for speeding. He was arrested because his driver’s license was suspended.
During the course of the investigation, officers determined a woman in the car who was not quite 18 had been drinking.
At the time, her blood alcohol level was 0.3 — nearly four times the legal limit. She was taken into protective custody.
Soon after Sanders’ arrest, authorities learned there was an outstanding warrant in Minnesota on a probation violation for his arrest in Iowa where he was charged with “pimping.” The Iowa case involved a prostitution sting, and both Sanders and the woman found in the car in Logan County were arrested.
Sanders was then charged with a single count of aggravated human trafficking.
Sanders was granted a reduced sentence.
He also was given a lifetime postrelease sentence, even though the offense dictates three year’s parole.
In his appeal, Sanders argued promoting prostitution was the more specific charge, and should have been filed instead.
The court, however, found Sanders’ conduct went well beyond behaviors targeted in the state’s promoting prostitution statute.
He was the “mastermind behind the escort business,” the court said, and admitted to his probation officer that “he had been in the escort business since he was 16 years old and that he was addicted to that lifestyle because of the fast money.”
His control over the woman in the car with him in Logan County continued even after Sanders was put in prison.
“Thus, under the facts of this case,” the court said, “we conclude that promoting prostitution was not the more specific offense and conclude that Sanders was properly charged with aggravated trafficking.”
The appeals panel did, however, order resentencing for parole to the proper three years.
• Both published and unpublished opinions can be found online at www.kscourts.org