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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Convicted murderer opts to represent himself in District Court

  • A man who's serving a 30-year prison sentence for a 2009 murder in Leavenworth has decided to act as his own attorney in a civil case focusing on his former attorney.
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  • A man who's serving a 30-year prison sentence for a 2009 murder in Leavenworth has decided to act as his own attorney in a civil case focusing on his former attorney.
    Jason L. Jones, 37, appeared Thursday in Leavenworth County District Court for what had been scheduled as an evidentiary hearing. Jones alleges his former attorney, Carl Cornwell, provided ineffective assistance.
    He's also raised other issues about his case and contends he should be released or granted a trial.
    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. At the time, Jones was living with the boy's mother in Leavenworth.
    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, which led to a re-sentencing in the criminal case.
    The evidentiary hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday was continued because Cornwell was unavailable to testify. The hearing was continued until May 22.
    Thursday's hearing began with the judge asking Jones how he wished to proceed in the case.
    Attorney Michael Highland had been appointed to represent Jones in the civil case.
    Jones had filed his own motion in the case. Sundby said Highland had chosen to prepare his own motion on behalf of his client instead of the adopting the one written by Jones.
    Sundby said Jones could go forward with his own motion by acting as his own attorney, or they could proceed with the one prepared by Highland.
    "I think I will move forward and represent myself," Jones said.
    Sundby discharged Highland from the case and said the motion filed by the attorney won't be considered.
    Highland said he needed to speak about transcripts he obtained in the case.
    "No, he has chosen to represent himself," Sundby said to Highland.
    Highland remained in the courtroom in case he was called upon to answer questions.
    Jones presented a new motion to the judge Thursday seeking transcripts from juvenile court.
    Jones has argued he was coerced into entering his guilty plea because of a threat to have his son from the custody of the boy's grandparents.
    Highland already had obtained copies of two of the transcripts Jones was requesting.
    Sundby said he would check with the judge who presides over juvenile cases regarding the additional transcripts. He said the request for the transcripts will remain under advisement for now.
    Page 2 of 2 - Jones also said he has requested several times a recording of a police interview of his son. He argued the interview was conducted without an attorney or another adult being present on the boy's behalf.
    Leavenworth County Assistant Attorney Cheryl Marquardt said this issue already was taken up during the criminal case and the appeal. She said it's not relevant to the issue of Cornwell's performance during the criminal case.
    Sundby said he will review Jones' request and issue a ruling in writing.

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