The Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled that the son of a former governor candidate won’t have to spend time behind bars for a drug deal that turned into a deadly shootout.
Friday’s split decision by a three-judge panel upholds a Sedgwick County judge’s ruling that granted probation to Kyler Carriker on a 2015 conviction of attempted distribution of marijuana.
Carriker, the son of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Winn, was found not guilty on a companion charge of first-degree murder in the 2013 shooting death of Ronald Betts.
Winn ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2014, largely to draw attention to her son’s case. She made a surprisingly strong showing, drawing 37 percent of the vote against incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback.
Carriker admitted to arranging the drug deal that led to Betts’ death. Carriker was also shot during the gun battle that ensued when the three purported drug buyers attempted to steal the marijuana instead of paying for it.
Kansas allows for all participants in a crime that leads to a death to be charged with murder. The trial jury acquitted Carriker of murder, but found him guilty of the lesser charge of attempted distribution of marijuana.
Judge Terry Pullman sentenced Carriker to three years of state-supervised probation on the marijuana charge. State guidelines call for a presumptive prison sentence for the crime, which prompted the prosecutors to appeal.
On Friday, the appeals court ruled 2-1 that Pullman had not abused his discretion as a judge in imposing the lighter sentence.
“We cannot say that no reasonable person would have taken the district court’s view, or that the decision was based on an error of law or fact,” said the majority opinion joined by Judges Melissa Taylor Standridge and Kim R. Schroeder.
Pullman indicated he based his ruling largely on Carriker’s clean record during the 29 months it took for his case to go to trial and his completion of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, court documents said.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge G. Gordon Atcheson noted that Carriker “orchestrated a marijuana sale in which he and his cohorts came bearing both guns and drugs.”
He said he felt the district court “relied on both factually erroneous and legally unjustified reasons” for the lightened sentence and that the majority “fails to capture the scope of the district court’s mistakes or appreciate the significance of them.”