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Minutes for HB2366 - Committee on Judiciary

Short Title

Requiring prosecutors to disclose their intent to introduce testimony from a jailhouse witness and to forward information to the Kansas bureau of investigation.

Minutes Content for Tue, Mar 16, 2021

Chairperson Patton opened the hearing on HB2366.  Natalie Scott provided an overview of the bill. (Attachment 10) Ms. Scott stood for questions.


Tricia Rojo Bushnell testified in support of HB2366(Attachment 11) Ms. Bushnell stated Jailhouse informants are different from other witnesses who might be motivated to lie, like a family member who offers an alibi for a defendant, because while the motivation to lie for a loved one is obvious to a jury, a jailhouse witness’s motivation to lie is not always apparent. Concerns about this reliability are real and the prosecution is already constitutionally required to disclose benefits and discrediting evidence on jailhouse witnesses to the defense. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that failure to turn over this information violates a defendant’s due process because he or she cannot prepare an adequate defense that raises reliability issues to the judge and jury. However, in Kansas jailhouse witness evidence is often disclosed late, or in cases like Pete’s, incompletely, or not at all. As a result, cross-examination and other mechanisms for weeding out perjured testimony are useless. Even more troubling is that prosecutors can dangle the possibly of leniency without formalizing an agreement before the jailhouse witness testifies. Without a formal deal, the jailhouse witness can honestly testify he is not getting anything for his cooperation as a deal is not made until after the testimony is received. HB2366 will provide a means to better determine if jailhouse witnesses are potentially risky. It also provides for a pre-trial reliability hearing. 

Beth Powers testified in support of HB2366(Attachment 12) Ms. Powers stated HB2366 will help prevent wrongful convictions as well as increase public safety. This proposal is supported by victim’s rights organizations who understand deeply not just the threat of wrongful conviction, but also the impact it has on crime victims to know that the person who committed a crime against them or their loved one received leniency for offering false testimony that led to a wrongful conviction. In these instances everyone is denied justice - the wrongfully convicted, the victim of the crime who thought they had closure but learned the wrong person was held responsible, and the crime victim of the jailhouse witness’s crime who learns their perpetrator was offered benefits to contribute to this injustice.

Ben Coones testified in support of HB2366. (Attachment 13) Mr. Coones stated he was here today to speak for his father. Nearly 13 years ago his family was torn apart by corruption, misconduct, and the lies told by others. After his father’s arrest, he was charged and convicted of a murder, he did not commit. One of the key pieces of “evidence” brought against him were the words of a man named Rupert. A man that neither his father, nor his family had ever even known. A man who told lie after lie to a jury who believed him. And whose testimony ultimately led to my father’s conviction, and nearly 13 years of imprisonment, for a crime he did not commit. If the jury had perhaps known the fact that Rupert had made a deal and bargained for his benefit for his testimony the outcome could have been different. Mr. Coones asked for the committee's support of HB2366.

Melody Bitzer testified in support of HB2366(Attachment 14) Ms. Bitzer explained that her father was allowed to be free 108 days before the cancer that went un-diagnosed and untreated during his wrongful incarceration took his life permanently. Ms. Bitzer said if HB2366 been in place almost 13 years ago, maybe her father would still be alive today.

Quinn Coones testified in support of HB2366(Attachment 15) Mr. Coones also spoke to the pain and suffering his father and family went through because of the wrongful conviction of his father. He asked the committee for their support of HB2366.

Proponent Written

  • Ross Minks, Son-In-Law of Olin "Pete" Coones (Attachment 16)
  • Lindsie Ford, Staff Attorney, KS Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence (Attachment 17)
  • Marcus Winn, Lead Organizer, Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (Attachment 18)
  • Clayton Perkins, Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers  (Attachment 19)
  • Alice Craig, Attorney, Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies (Attachment 20)
  • Elizabeth Patton, Americans for Prosperity (Attachment 21)

Chairperson Patton asked for additional conferees, being none, he closed the hearing on HB2366.

Chairperson Patton adjourned the meeting at 5:00 pm.