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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Murder defendant argues ineffective counsel

  • A man serving a 30-year sentence for a 2009 murder in Leavenworth contends he should be released or granted a new trial because his former attorney was ineffective.
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  • A man serving a 30-year sentence for a 2009 murder in Leavenworth contends he should be released or granted a new trial because his former attorney was ineffective.
    Jason L. Jones, 37, appeared Tuesday in Leavenworth County District Court for a motion in which he argued he was denied Constitutional rights during earlier court proceedings. An evidentiary hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 13.
    Jones pleaded guilty in 2010 to reckless second-degree murder and abuse of a child. The charges stemmed from the death of 4-year-old Gabriel Rivera.
    The boy reportedly died from blunt force trauma after he'd been left in Jones' care. Jones was living with the boy's mother at the time.
    The case now before District Court is considered a civil proceeding, but it's being heard by District Judge Gunnar Sundby, who handles criminal cases. Sundby also presided over Jones' earlier criminal case.
    The civil case follows an appeal of Jones' sentence to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
    At the time of the 2010 plea, Jones was represented by defense attorney Carl Cornwell.
    Michael Highland has been appointed to represent Jones in the civil case.
    Highland told Sundby on Tuesday that he was not ready for an evidentiary hearing in the case. The attorney said he needs to review court transcripts and other documents.
    "I have a bunch of things to go over with (Jones)," Highland said.
    In a September court document, Jones alleged there's a reasonable probability that Cornwell's work in the earlier case negatively affected the outcome of the criminal proceedings. The document makes several allegations that are critical of actions taken by Cornwell and others connected with the case.
    Jones entered his plea in May 2010.
    When he was sentenced the following month, he asked to withdraw the plea. He argued at the time that he had been under severe pressure when he entered his guilty plea. He alleged the prosecutor was threatening to remove his son from the home of family members.
    Jones' motion to withdraw the plea was denied.
    The prosecution agreed to a recommended a 30-year prison sentence as part of the plea agreement. But, the prosecution considered Jones' attempt to withdraw his plea a violation of the agreement and asked for a longer sentence.
    Jones was sentenced to 38 years and 11 months.
    Last year, the state Court of Appeals ruled the prosecution still should have recommended the 30-year sentence despite Jones' request to withdraw the plea. The case was remanded back to District Court for re-sentencing.
    Jones was re-sentenced in June to 30 years in prison.
    Gabriel Rivera's mother, Monica Rivera, also was charged in connection to her son's death. She was convicted in 2010 of involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. The conviction was overturned last year by the Court of Appeals. The appellate court found errors had been made in the instructions provided to jurors during Rivera's 2010 trial.
    Page 2 of 2 - The case was remanded back to District Court for a new trial.
    In April, Rivera pleaded no contest to the amended charge of aggravated endangering a child. She was sentenced to time served.
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