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Juries to be selected for two Hard 50 first-degree murder trials

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, at 6:57 a.m.

Juries are scheduled to be selected next month in two first-degree murder trials in which prosecutors will seek Hard 50 prison sentences.

Justin Jones and Jason Jones, both 38, are charged in the death of Shawn Lindsey, 34, who was injected with a lethal dose of meth on Jan. 11, 2013. His body was found five days later in a field near K-96 and Hillside. Jason Jones is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 13; jury selection for Justin Jones’ trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 27.

Sedgwick County prosecutors announced earlier that they would seek a Hard 50 sentence against a third suspect in the case, Dang Sean, 32. He was scheduled to stand trial in December, but the case was continued at the request of the defense.

In all three cases, prosecutors contend that the crime was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. They said Lindsey was killed to settle a debt that may have involved illegal drug transactions. They also said their evidence would show that meth and related drug paraphernalia would prove to be the murder weapon in the case.

Three other defendants are charged with kidnapping Lindsey, but not with taking part in his killing.

At a preliminary hearing in March, one of the witnesses testified that Sean and two of his co-defendants melted a quarter-ounce of meth and injected it into Lindsey’s arm while holding him captive in an auto repair shop at 118 S. Vine.

The three Hard 50 cases will be tried under a law that was rewritten by the Kansas Legislature in September to comply with a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That ruling said that juries, not judges, must determine whether factors in a criminal court case call for increasing a defendant’s minimum prison sentence.

Under the old law, a judge was asked to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors before deciding whether to impose a Hard 50 sentence. The revised law calls for jurors to weigh those factors.

The 2014 Kansas Legislature is expected to consider a bill that would mandate 50-year minimum terms in all premeditated first-degree murder cases. Under the current law, most inmates serving sentences for premeditated first-degree murder become eligible for parole after 25 years.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hlaviana.

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