Seeking Justice: Felony Murder? The Drug War Takes Center Stage and a Young Man’s Life Hangs in the Balance

Sedgwick County, KS (TFC) In a polarizing case in Wichita, KS, 22 year old Kyler Carriker faces life in prison due to a new Kansas law retroactively applied to his case by the District Attorney.

In a case of premeditated robbery and deception by Wichita Gang members, a 22 year old father of two is facing life in prison, after being deceived by a high school buddy, turned gang member, into finding the buddy some marijuana.

In Spring of 2013, Kyler Carriker happened to run in to high school acquaintance Lorenzo Spires. Kyler and Lorenzo both attended Wichita Northwest High.  What Kyler did not know about Lorenzo was that he was now a member of a Wichita Street gang, and, that Lorenzo and his fellow gang members were looking for people to rob.  Lorenzo, while speaking to Kyler, asked him if he knew where he might be able to buy some marijuana.  This was part of Lorenzo and his gang’s plan.  He was never interested in buying anything.  Kyler asked another acquaintance, Kyle Beltz, if he knew someone from whom to acquire four ounces of marijuana. Kyler did not know anyone who sold marijuana, personally, but thought Kyle might.

In the meantime, Lorenzo contacted two of his fellow gang members, John Carter and Dennis Haynes, and the three of them proceeded to get ready to act.

Kyler, who himself smoked marijuana once in a while, did not know the person Kyle Beltz contacted.  Beltz would arrange for the transaction to be done at his home.  Beltz had contacted a person he knew to sell marijuana, Ronald Betts. Beltz arranged for Betts to bring four ounces of marijuana to his home so Lorenzo Spires could buy. Kyler Carriker would make $50.00 for helping out, money Carriker could really use.

When the three gang members were arriving at Beltz’ home, Kyler immediately asked Beltz and Betts to cancel the deal because he thought something was wrong. Betts refused.  When Spires, Haynes and Carter entered the home, within a minute Haynes opened fire on Carriker.  Kyler was hit in the leg and the stomach, and fell to the floor. Haynes then killed Betts.

Kyler played dead while the three gang members fled.  Luckily his wounds were not fatal. Kyler was transported to the hospital and would ultimately recover.

He would also be arrested and charged with Felony Murder.

It is clear when the District Attorney filed felony murder charges against Kyler a number of facts had already been established.

  1. Kyler was not a drug dealer
  2. Kyler did not know Ronald Betts prior to this incidentKyler
  3. Kyler did not know Lorenzo Spires was now a member of a street gang
  4. Kyler did not know John Carter and Dennis Haynes.
  5. Kyler had no knowledge that the three gang members were planning to rob Betts or anyone else present
  6. Kyler had no knowledge that the three gang members were planning on shooting anyone
  7. Kyler was the first person shot
  8. Kyler has no criminal record.

The District Attorney also knew when he charged Carriker for felony murder he would be retroactively applying a law created after the Bett’s murder had taken place.  Ex Post Facto applications of a law are normally forbidden by the Constitution.

More actions by the District Attorney’s Office in this case come in to serious question.  Two of the gang members – members who planned the robbery/murder, that duped Kyler,.that shot Kyler and killed Betts, Spires and Carter – have been given lighter sentences in exchange for their testimony against Carriker, who was a gunshot victim.

The Kansas Legislature has recently classified marijuana sales as an inherently dangerous felony. This is due to marijuana still being classified as a Schedule 1 drug, even though its medicinal value should negate that classification. In order to convict Carriker, who was nearly killed by Haynes, of felony murder, the District Attorney will try to convince a jury that Kyler’s involvement as a “middle man” in a transaction that was never going to happen in the first place is sufficient reason to acquit and through a conviction “justice” will be served.

Jury selection commenced yesterday and is expected to be complete this afternoon, followed by opening statements.  Carriker is represented by Sarah Swain.  Carriker could have no better advocate in his corner.Sarah Swain 2

Swain, appearing on my radio show this past Saturday, discussed how easily “what is justice” has been forgotten by Prosecuting Attorneys and Judges in today’s “system”.  Just yesterday, the presiding Judge in Carriker’s case, Terry Pullman, ruled that people who sit in the courtroom cannot have on any clothing or buttons that state support for Kyler, in a surprising First Amendment suppression by a sitting trial judge. It is a rather shocking ruling, considering the vast amount of on point case law that counters it.

Supporters from all over the country have descended on Wichita in a hopes to shine the light on what is wrong with this prosecution and the continued destruction of people involved with the use of marijuana.  Human Solutions International helped organize the daily protests and Kyler’s mother, former Kansas gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Winn, has started to post daily video reports of the events of each day on her Facebook page, “Jennifer Winn for Kansas”.Jennifer Winn

Swain will ask the jury to nullify the inherently dangerous law and to find Kyler not guilty of felony murder. Chief Deputy District Attorney Trinity Muth has been arguing vigorously to Judge Pullman against allowing this to happen in this case.  Muth also has been telling the jury pool that they “must” follow the law that the judge tells them, in order to circumvent the any jury nullification strategy by defense attorney Swain.

Tomorrow, District Attorney Muth will begin presenting the State’s case. In our efforts to better our society, how can we do that without seeking justice.  Prosecuting Kyler Carriker, himself someone that needs the protection of the law as a victim of a gang conspiracy and con, is not justice.