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"I just want to get the truth out there. It's vitally important to be transparent," Kline told the paper. "I think you need a little bit more time to let these facts sort themselves out, but this clearly shows that some of the silliness that's been bandied about isn't true."
Not exactly. Kline's figures looked at the first 100 days of his tenure and compared it to the same time last year. The figures showed that he had filed fewer cases than Morrison — 2,478 to 2,600. His numbers showed a drop in the number of juvenile, criminal and domestic-violence cases filed. Dismissals over the same period have risen from 39 last year to 52.
Statistics aside, what matters is what's actually happening in Johnson County courtrooms. The Pitch has conducted interviews with 10 current and former employees with the Johnson County District Attorney's Office.
Several of them have shared details of at least 30 botched cases. The cases show that Kline's new hires failed to have a basic understanding of rules of evidence, failed to identify defendants during preliminary hearings, and made lenient deals in cases involving violent crimes. Among the questionable cases:
· Kline's lead prosecutor, Stephen Maxwell, scored a hung jury on March 14 in the second murder trial of David Stagg, a music professor accused of murdering his lover, William Jennings. After the first trial, a jury returned a 9-3 decision in favor of a guilty verdict, leading to a mistrial. A second jury also couldn't reach a verdict, with three jurors favoring guilt before a second mistrial was declared. A Johnson County judge granted Stagg an acquittal March 29.
· John Lowe was accused on January 6, 2006, of threatening to cut his son to pieces. Lowe represented himself. Prosecutors Dave Davies and Eric Rucker gave him a deal on April 13 that allowed Lowe to plead to two "level C" misdemeanors, the lowest-level criminal charge. Instead of 14 months behind bars, Lowe was released with a sentence of the time he had already served in jail.
· Davies cut a similar deal in a case against Randolph Aiken. A witness claimed that Aiken drove in circles in a front yard on December 15, 2006, chasing a person who was on foot, according to police reports. Aiken was facing about a year in jail on a charge of felony aggravated assault, but Davies reduced the charge to misdemeanor assault. On April 13, Aiken received 30 days in jail and a year's probation.
· On April 24, Paine lacked evidence at a preliminary hearing to determine whether John Donnelly Furmanski had failed to pay child support. Without evidence that Furmanski hadn't made his payments, a judge dismissed the charges.
· Rucker showed little knowledge of hearsay evidence during a May 2 hearing for Johnny Earl Belcher, who is accused of kidnapping a man and threatening to kill him. Witnesses are typically not allowed to testify as to what somebody told them. But Rucker asked a detective what Belcher had told him, and Belcher's attorney objected. Rucker said, "He was the personal hearer of this testimony, your honor." Rucker could have cited an evidence rule for why the statement should be allowed, but without it, the judge sustained the objection.
· Damion Serrioz was arrested on a felony charge of driving while intoxicated on July 26, 2006. During his arrest, Serrioz was accused of striking Overland Park police officer Laurie Bridges. The police claimed that Serrioz possessed an open container, refused to take a sobriety test and had been driving with a suspended license. Serrioz already had two prior DUI convictions. The records were in the file when Sue Carpenter attended the preliminary hearing on the new DUI charge. Judge John Anderson III dismissed all of the charges on May 3 because Carpenter didn't realize that the certified copies of the DUI convictions were in the file and never offered them as evidence.