Kansas Supreme Court reverses murder convictions

The Kansas Supreme Court this week reversed the convictions of Willie Jerome Smith-Parker, accused in the 2009 deaths of Justin Letourneau and Alfred Mack Jr.

A Saline County District Court jury convicted Smith-Parker of first-degree premeditated murder of Mack and second-degree intentional murder of Letourneau.

Smith-Parker raised 10 issues in his appeal and the court found four had merit, including faulty jury instruction.

After jury deliberations commenced, a juror was replaced with an alternate. The court ruled that “the failure to instruct the jury to begin its deliberations anew after (the juror) was replaced with an alternate juror, and the denial of Smith-Parker’s motion to recall at least (the juror) and the presiding juror to investigate allegation of jury misconduct” merited the reversal.

“The combination of the overall weakness of the evidence against him and multiple serious procedural defects tainting the process mean Smith-Parker was substantially prejudiced under the totality of the circumstances and denied a fair trial,” the court ruled.

Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

The convictions stemmed from incidents that occurred in June 2009. Salina police investigating a burglary June 19 discovered the body of Mack in his apartment. He had been shot in the chest.

Items belonging to Mack later were found in the residence of Smith-Parker.

Letourneau died in a Wichita hospital from a gunshot wound to the head that occurred June 19. The injured Letourneau was driven to Salina Regional Health Center by Smith-Parker at 6:15 a.m.

The two had met two years before in prison, and on the night before the shooting, they argued about Letourneau’s treatment of his common-law wife.