Kansas man convicted of sexual crimes against minor found innocent, repaid for time spent behind bars

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Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 3:03 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After years, a man who had been convicted of sexual crimes against a minor has been found innocent and repaid for the time he wrongfully spent behind bars.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says his office resolved two lawsuits filed under the state’s mistaken-conviction statute on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

In the first case, Schmidt said he agreed on a resolution of a lawsuit filed by Merardo J. Garza, Jr.

On Jan. 10, 2008, Garza was convicted of alternative counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and rape in Sedgwick Co. District Court. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 25 years, which was vacated on Nov. 6, 2020.

Schmidt said the agreed resolution, in this case, was approved on Jan. 20, 2022, by Sedgwick Co. District Judge Seth Rundle.

In the order, Schmidt said the court found Garza did not commit the crime he was convicted of, nor was he an accessory. He also did not commit perjury, fabricate evidence or cause the conviction himself. He served 13 years, 5 months and 27 days behind bars.

Accordingly, Schmidt said the court ordered Garza to receive the following relief, as provided by the mistaken-convictions statute:

  • Certificate of Innocence
  • Expungement of conviction and arrest records
  • $887,455.22 in compensation

In the second case, Schmidt said Shawnee Co. District Court Judge Teresa Watson issued a ruling earlier last week in a suit brought by Francis Everett, 64, who was convicted in Smith Co. on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine in November 2007.

Everett was released when his convictions reversed on appeal because the trial court made a mistake in admitting evidence of a previous conviction, not because of actual innocence, Watson wrote. He was not retired on the charges but is currently in prison for a different crime.

After a single-day jury trial on Jan. 6 to hear Everett’s claim, Schmidt said Watson ruled Everett failed to satisfy the requirements established by Kansas law that the claimant is required to prove he did not commit the crimes and was not an accessory. He appeared via videoconference.

Schmidt said a witness at both Everett’s hearing and his 2007 trial testified she was there when he made and did methamphetamine between March and May 2006. She gave a detailed account of how the pair drove across state lines to get ingredients to make the drugs and use them in a secluded area.

Watson said in her ruling Everett severely damaged his own credibility when he claimed he “probably did” use meth during the time in question, despite earlier testimony saying he did not.

From December 2018 through Jan. 2022, Schmidt said 14 people have filed lawsuits against the State of Kansas under the mistaken-conviction statute. Of those, he said six have now reached judgment and payment has been made or is in the process.

In a seventh case, Schmidt said the district court ruled against the claimant and the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed no payment was owed.

Schmidt said the eighth case was rejected at the district court level.

Meanwhile, the remaining five cases are still in litigation in district courts.

By statute, the AG said payment, as was made in the Garza case, is subject to review by the State Finance Council.

To read the full text of the orders in the case Garza v State of Kansas, click HERE.

A copy of Watson’s ruling can be found HERE.

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