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KS Supreme Court upholds Baxter Springs man's appeal - KOAM TV 7

KS Supreme Court upholds Baxter Springs man's appeal

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William Barber Jr. William Barber Jr.

UPDATE 7/10/2015:  Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed March 29, 2013. Appeal from Cherokee District Court; OLIVER KENT LYNCH, judge. Opinion filed July 10, 2015. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed.


Appeal No. 106,911:  State of Kansas v. William Barber Jr. The Kansas Supreme Court, per curiam, affirmed William Barber Jr.'s Cherokee County District Court convictions for the aggravated battery and child abuse of his infant daughter. While alone and in Barber's sole care, his then 2-month-old daughter suddenly developed life-threatening seizures and respiratory distress. Shortly thereafter, multiple examining physicians observed recent trauma consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Throughout the investigation and at Barber's trial, witnesses spoke about times they had seen Barber shake his daughter in a frustrated response to her cries.  

On appeal, Barber argued the trial court committed legal error by overruling a trial objection. In his objection, Barber requested the court exclude one witness' testimony that she had observed him shaking his daughter on a prior occasion. But multiple other witnesses provided similar testimony about other times Barber had shaken the child; testimony that was likely more damaging to Barber's case. And because Barber did not object to that other testimony, the jury would have known about prior times Barber had shaken the child even if the trial court was wrong in overruling Barber's objection.
            
Barber also claimed that the prosecutor made many improper statements to the jury during closing arguments. Although some of the prosecutor's remarks were improper, the court found that the statements did not impact the jury's verdict. Indeed, the evidence against Barber was overwhelming - the type of injuries present in the child were almost exclusive to shaken baby syndrome; the child's symptoms would have begun immediately after her injury; and the child's symptoms began only after being in the sole care of Barber, whom witnesses had seen shake the child on prior occasions. 

Barber raised other challenges to his convictions and sentence on appeal. But the court rejected them because recent decisions had already decided the claims against Barber's position. 

Justice Marla Luckert dissented, finding the trial court erred by instructing the jury that it could consider prior times Barber had shaken the child as "proof of a continuing course of conduct." Statutes generally render evidence of a defendant's propensity to commit crime inadmissible. Yet, essentially, the trial court's instruction improperly told the jury that if it believed Barber had shaken the child in the past, then it could conclude that he did it again and was thus guilty as charged.

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(June 2011) A jury finds a Baxter Springs, Kansas man guilty of abusing a baby.

After deliberating all day, jurors came back with a conviction for William Barber Jr.

He was found guilty on counts of child abuse and aggravated battery.

Barber violently shook his then-two-month-old daughter in February 2008, causing serious brain injuries.

The girl is now three years old and is seriously disabled and unable to stand.

The child is in the care of child protective services.

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