KC Freedom Project activist Latahra Smith left unmistakable evidence Tuesday of her distrust with the board responsible for disciplining wayward attorneys in Kansas.
She stood outside the Topeka office of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys with a couple of dozen supporters to loudly urge disbarment of Amy McGowan, a former prosecutor in Kansas City, Mo., now working for the Douglas County District Attorney. The objection to McGowan reflects findings of misconduct in Missouri and Kansas courts linked to wrongful convictions, she said.
Another example of unpunished wrongdoing was the work of Jacqie Spradling, a former Shawnee County prosecutor, whom the Kansas Supreme Court concluded engaged in misconduct at the trial of Dana Chandler. Chandler was convicted of a double homicide in 2012, but the appellate court overturned the conviction.
An ethics complaint was filed in 2016 against Spradling. Formal charges are pending against Spradling after a panel concluded there was probable cause to believe she violated Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct.
The ability of lawyers to avoid a day of reckoning, Smith said, undermined the legal process.
"The message that it sends is this office is not going to hold attorneys accountable when they do things they're not supposed to be doing," said Smith, director of the KC Freedom Project.
Officials in the disciplinary office deferred a request for comment to Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for the Supreme Court. Findings of the disciplinary office are forwarded to justices of the state's highest court for final resolution. Taylor said she would have no comment on the protest.
Activists previously held protests in Lawrence to call for the firing of McGowan, who is chief assistant district attorney in Douglas County.
The activists highlighted exoneration of Ricky Kidd, 44, who spent 23 years in prison for a 1996 double murder that he didn't commit. The Circuit Court in DeKalb County, Mo., concluded McGowan, who prosecuted Kidd, failed to turn over evidence that would have been useful in Kidd's defense.
"She's destroyed a lot of lives," said Elisa Breitenbach, an Independence, Mo., resident familiar with a person wrongfully convicted of crime.