Judge denies immunity motion in murder case

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
Cody J. Nichols

A judge has ruled a man facing a murder charge in Leavenworth is not immune from prosecution.

Cody J. Nichols argued he should be immune from prosecution because he acted in self-defense when he shot Sanquan M. Brooks last year.

But District Judge Gerald Kuckelman said Thursday that immunity is not available to the defendant because the judge believes Nichols was involved in a drug transaction at the time of the shooting.

“This was a drug transaction that went wrong,” Kuckelman said.

Brooks was killed July 18 in Leavenworth.

Nichols, 20, is charged with what is known as felony murder, which is a form of first-degree murder. Felony murder occurs when someone is killed during the commission of a felony that is considered inherently dangerous.

Nichols testified during Thursday’s motions hearing.

Nichols, who was living in Kansas City, Missouri, at the time, said he went to Leavenworth to sell a stolen Nissan Pathfinder for $250 in cash.

Nichols testified that while at the scene, a gun was placed to the back of his head by Brooks.

The defendant said he ducked and began to spin around. He testified that Brooks fired two shots at that time, but both shots missed the defendant.

Nichols said he pulled his own gun from his pocket and began shooting.

“I just kept shooting until the guy fell down,” he said.

Nichols said he fired additional shots at the Nissan Pathfinder as it was being driven away by another man, Collin Ireland. Nichols alleged Ireland tried to run him over.

The defendant acknowledged he was not legally allowed to possess a firearm because of a prior felony conviction.

Assistant County Attorney Megan Williams argues that Ireland acted as an intermediary between Brooks and Nichols in helping to set up what was supposed to be an exchange of the stolen vehicle for methamphetamine or meth and cash.

Thursday’s hearing was a continuation of a hearing that began Monday afternoon.

Ireland testified Monday that Brooks attempted to purchase the Nissan Pathfinder in exchange for methamphetamine.

Ireland alleged that Nichols pulled out a gun during the transaction, resulting in shooting.

Ireland was wounded during the incident.

“In this case, there’s obviously two very conflicting stories here,” Kuckelman said Thursday.

Kuckelman said he considered the motives Ireland and Nichols may have had for not telling the truth.

“I’m not sure what (Ireland’s) motive would be,” the judge said.

But Kuckelman said Nichols may have a strong motive for lying.

“He’s looking at very serious charges,” Kuckelman said.

The judge said it also appears the defendant allegedly steals cars for a living.

“It sounds like he earns his living by being dishonest,” Kuckelman said.

Nichols’ attorney, Gregory Robinson, said Ireland was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. The defense attorney argued this may be a motive for making up a story.

Williams argued the fact that Ireland has been granted immunity gives him more reason to be truthful because his testimony cannot be used against him.

Nichols’ girlfriend testified Thursday that the defendant had wanted to sell the vehicle for money so they could catch up on rent money they owed.

Kuckelman said this witness’ testimony seemed programmed.

“She sounded a little rehearsed to me,” he said.

Kuckelman said there was plenty evidence of a drug transaction found at the scene in the form of drug paraphernalia.

Robinson noted a bag with a crystal substance found at the scene turned out not to contain any drugs.

Kuckelman said this does not mean there could have been meth at the scene that later was removed by Nichols or Ireland.

Kuckelman denied the defense motion for immunity from prosecution. He also denied a separate defense motion to dismiss the case.

The judge scheduled a status hearing in the case for May 21.

“At that time, we’ll be able to schedule the jury trial,” he said.

Nichols remains in custody at the Leavenworth County Jail.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR