KS Supreme Court throws out Topeka man’s murder conviction

James Qualls III (Source: Kansas Dept. of Corrections)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The state Supreme Court said a Topeka man should get a new trial for a 2008 shooting during a confrontation outside a bar.

A jury found James Qualls III guilty of first-degree murder in 2015 and he received a ‘Hard 25’ life sentence. On Friday, Justices reversed the judgment and remanded his case back to the district court.

Qualls was accused of killing Joseph Beier by shooting him approximately 12 times on July 16, 2008, outside the Whiplash bar. He contended he was defending himself at the time, believing Beier was reaching for a gun in his waistband.

In the trial, the judge denied his request that the jury receive an instruction for self-defense because, the judge says, Beier’s actions would not lead a reasonable person to believe they “had no option but to fire nine to, the number of times he fired.”

The Justices determined jurors should have been allowed to consider self-defense, stating Qualls testimony had met both the subjective and objective standards for presenting such a defense. They noted, however, the district court had made its ruling before the objective standards were clarified in a 2018 Supreme Court decision on another case.

An earlier conviction was overturned because a different judge refused to allow jurors to consider voluntary manslaughter as a lesser charge.