WICHITA — A 27-year-old man convicted of engaging in fondling with a 9-year-old will get a new trial after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled today that a Wichita police detective may have coerced his confession.
The court reversed the 2007 conviction of Joshua L. Stone, saying that the jury should not have heard his interview with Detective Kelly Mar. Stone is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
Stone had repeatedly said he was innocent, until after Mar said the suspect's DNA had been found on the girl's pajamas. Mar pressed Stone to tell how it got there.
"In fact, when lab results were complete, no semen was detected on the pajama top," Justice Eric Rosen wrote in the opinion.
Justices also said the detective suggested to Stone that agreeing with the victim's story would keep him out of trouble and that she pressed him with questioning until he was exhausted and confused.
Alone, none of the tactics would be improper, the court ruled, but together "they were significant."
The high court said Judge Jeff Goering should have kept Stone's statements out of the trial.
The court also questioned prosecutor Christine Ladner's statements in her closing arguments, comparing the credibility of the girl's testimony with Stone's version of events. While the court said Ladner's conduct was "inartful," it didn't constitute reversible error.
The jury originally said it could not reach a verdict. But after being told to continue its deliberations, jurors convicted Stone on one of the four counts against him.
During sentencing, Goering cited the juror's struggle to reach a verdict as reason not to give the 25 years-to-life sentence mandated under the Kansas Statute known as Jessica's Law.
Read the opinion:
Kansas Supreme Court Opinion: State v. Stone ey=key-3lm0sjfkzkzx5e5u756&page=1&viewMode=list" >