After months of arguments over improper procedures and possible constitutional rights violations, a judge on Monday dismissed a case against a man accused of soliciting murder from his Douglas County jail cell.
Darren L. Henry, 30, has been in custody since June 2020, charged with aggravated robbery at a Lawrence convenience store in September 2017.
Prosecutors filed the solicitation charge after a November 2021 search of Henry’s jail cell showing that he was in possession of “unredacted discovery paperwork” containing personal identification information about witnesses in the aggravated robbery case.
On Monday, Douglas County District Court Judge Stacey Donovan heard arguments to dismiss the solicitation charge citing improper disqualification of Henry’s previous attorney, Adam Hall.
In his motion, Henry’s current attorney, Adam Zentner, wrote that the “State did not have proper grounds to seek disqualification of Mr. Hall,” and that his dismissal was an infringement of Henry’s Sixth Amendment right to privacy in his attorney-client relationship.
After a 30-minute recess, Donovan returned and said that changes to Henry’s defense team in court proceedings leading up to Monday were not violations but were done “to protect Mr. Henry’s rights and to protect the integrity of the court.”
Donovan then asked Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum whether she was prepared to call witnesses for the preliminary hearing to determine whether Henry would be bound over for trial on the solicitation charge.
Tatum answered that the confidential informant who had been waiting in the hall was no longer at the judicial center.
“I think there were some nerves involved, and we were in here, unable to handle that,” Tatum said.
Donovan then stated her decision to drop the case without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can refile the charge later.
“I don’t think there’s any other choice here but to dismiss,” Donovan said.
The prosecution — which at the time the solicitation charge was brought was led by Douglas County Senior Assistant District Attorney David Greenwald — alleged that Hall had provided unredacted documents to Henry for preparation in his case.
Documents may be supplied to defendants as part of discovery, which is the process of exchanging information between prosecution and defense about the witnesses and evidence they plan to present at trial. In criminal cases, any identifying information about potential witnesses is removed or redacted from all documents given to defendants.
Authorities alleged that Henry had used unredacted information to solicit the murder of a witness in his robbery case. Prosecutors have not released the specific information that led to the solicitation charge.
But Hall had argued that the search by Lawrence Police Detective Kimberlee Nicholson had gone beyond the scope of what was contained in a warrant signed by Judge Mark Simpson. Hall said authorities had seized legal documents protected by attorney-client privilege, violating Henry’s constitutional rights and his ability to prepare for trial.
Hall and Greenwald both leveled allegations of improper conduct against each other. In March 2022, Donovan removed them both from the case.
Henry faces multiple additional criminal charges including aggravated armed robbery in connection with the 2017 incident at the convenience store. That case is scheduled to go to a jury trial on Jan. 8.
Additional actions taken Monday on other charges filed against Henry:
- Preliminary hearing scheduled Oct. 17 for trafficking or possession of a contraband item in a correctional facility.
- Sentencing scheduled for criminal threat to commit violence against five Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies made in March 2018. That hearing will follow the January trial for armed robbery.
- Jury parameters set for an Oct. 4 trial on multiple charges including possession of marijuana; possession of an opiate, opium, narcotic or other stimulant; and intent to distribute a controlled substance.
All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.