A Sedgwick County man convicted of felony murder for killing a Haysville woman while fleeing sheriff's deputies will receive a new trial, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court concluded that jurors should have been allowed to consider evidence on less serious charges in the trial of Gregory Berry.
The ruling retreats from previous holdings that the jury didn't have to receive instructions on lesser offenses, if prosecutors presented evidence that the death occurred while the defendant was committing a felony.
It will affect all pending felony murder cases.
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Jurors convicted Berry of first-degree felony murder in the November 2004 traffic death of Vicki K. Brown, 55. Brown died from injuries sustained when her car was struck by a 1994 Cadillac driven by Berry at 47th South and Meridian.
The crash occurred about 1:45 a.m. Thanksgiving morning after sheriff's deputies stopped Berry for a tag violation. But Berry, who had three outstanding traffic violations, fled. The sheriff's officers pursued at a slower speed, because they were concerned about the high speeds Berry was driving.
In its review of the case, the court ruled state law specifically directs district courts to instruct jurors to consider lesser offenses, when evidence of those are introduced during trial.
An opinion written by Justice Dan Biles said "the evidence is undisputed that Berry fled from the traffic stop and recklessly drove down city streets at an unconscionably high rate of speed. His flight caused an automobile accident that took [Brown's] life. Such evidence could support a conviction for second-degree reckless murder, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular homicide."