Jury selection begins in murder trial of alleged gang member

Jury selection got under way Tuesday in the trial of an alleged gang member who cited the state’s stand-your-ground law in an unsuccessful attempt to get a judge to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against him.

Steven Louis, 23, is charged with taking part in a Dec. 30, 2011, shoot-out outside the Bai Wei restaurant at 1845 S. Rock Road. Wichita police said one of the shots fired by members of a rival gang struck Kao Saechao, 19, a friend of Louis’ who later died of his injuries.

Louis was charged with felony murder after prosecutors determined that he was committing a crime – criminal discharge of a firearm – when his friend was killed.

In a pretrial motion, Louis’ lawyers invoked the state’s stand-your-ground law, which says a person who isn’t doing anything illegal doesn’t have to retreat when attacked and can use reasonable force in self-defense.

In rejecting that argument, District Judge Ben Burgess ruled that in order to be entitled to immunity under the stand-your-ground law, there must be unmistakable evidence that a defendant acted with clean hands. Had Louis been acting with clean hands, he said, he would have called 911 after the shooting, remained at the scene, administered first aid and turned his firearm over to police.

“Mr. Louis did none of the above,” Burgess wrote in his ruling denying Louis’ motion to dismiss the case. “Granting this motion would extend a clear invitation to others – among them gang members from all across Kansas – to violate public policy by carrying concealed weapons.”

Burgess noted in his ruling that Louis did not have a permit to carry a concealed gun, and that the shooting occurred in a location that was not his home or place of business.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, will take place in Burgess’ courtroom.

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