Kansas’ highest court on Friday ruled definitively that a Eudora man’s conviction in a June 2017 murder must be overturned — and his subsequent 19-year prison sentence vacated — because his 2018 trial accidentally started three days late.
While acknowledging that the facts of the case were clear — Danny Queen, the Eudora man, drunkenly shot and killed a bouncer at D-Dubs Bar and Grill on June 24, 2017 — the state of Kansas’ failure to try Queen within the statutorily mandated 150 days means he now receives a “get out of jail free card.”
In a 23-page opinion authored by Chief Justice Marla Luckert, Queen’s convictions in the case were reversed, his sentence vacated, and the case sent back to Douglas County District Court with directions to dismiss the charges with prejudice — meaning he can’t be tried again for the murder.
Luckert and the court sided with the Kansas Court of Appeals, which ruled in July 2020 that it was “obligated” to reverse Queen’s conviction after finding no legitimate exceptions to why Queen’s trial started 153 days after his arraignment, rather than the requisite 150 days.
Despite what Douglas County attempted to argue once it discovered the accidental miscalculation of the trial date in Queen’s case, Luckert’s opinion said the two main exceptions which could’ve applied — a crowded court docket and the defendant acquiescing to a trial date outside of the 150-day limit — didn’t apply in Queen’s case.
“Kansas does not employ a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to assertion of speedy trial rights, meaning that a defendant need not take affirmative steps to assert the speedy trial right or risk a finding of waiver,” the opinion says. “The obligation to bring the defendant to trial within the statutory speedy trial period rests only on the State.”
In other words, Douglas County and the state of Kansas erred in calculating the date Queen’s trial had to begin, and even though it was by a matter of days, Queen is now a free man.
The court heard oral arguments in the case on Dec. 15, 2020. Watch the video here.