Man charged in Washburn University football player killing seeks new lawyer, more time before trial

Francisco Mendez (Source: Shawnee Co. Jail)
Francisco Mendez (Source: Shawnee Co. Jail)(WIBW)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT
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A 19-year-old man charged with the shooting death of one Washburn University football player and the wounding of a second player filed a motion in April seeking to replace his defense attorney.

Francisco A. Mendez is charged with offenses on April 28, 2019, of:

- Premeditated first-degree murder of Dwane Simmons, 23.

- Attempted first-degree murder of Corey Ballentine, who was wounded.

- Three counts of attempted first-degree murder of Channon Ross, Kevin Neal and James Letcher, who were with Simmons and Ballentine.

The five men were Washburn University football players. Of the 12 charges Mendez faces, five are tied to events on April 28, 2019.

Mendez is to appear before Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios on Thursday when the judge will hear motions seeking the judge to appoint another defense attorney represent Mendez and to continue the Mendez case.

Mendez earlier has asked the judge to appoint a defense attorney to replace KiAnn Caprice, Mendez' current attorney. The judge has denied it.

During a phone call played during another hearing, Mendez said Caprice hadn't filed a lot of motions he wanted her to file, and he intended to fire Caprice in six months.

In a handwritten motion signed by Mendez, he asked the judge to replace Caprice "for failing to provide the defendant 'effective' assistance of counsel."

Three areas "raise major concern," Mendez wrote.

They are a "significant breakdown" in communication between Mendez and Caprice, including an "irrevocable breakdown" in the attorney-client relationship, Mendez wrote.

She has failed to investigate Mendez' case in his best interest, Mendez said.

"She has the responsibility to investigate, including interviewing witnesses, testing physical evidence consulting with appropriate experts," and investigating the credibility of prosecution wigtnesses, Mendez wrote.

Caprice also has failed to file meritorious motions on his behanlf, Mendez wrote.

The shootings occurred outside 1287 S.W. Lane, where Simmons was fatally wounded, and Ballentine suffered a gunshot wound to the buttocks. Ballentine played the 2019-2020 season on the New York Giants football team.

Mendez' nine-day trial has been scheduled to start on July 13, but it's expected that no jury trials in Shawnee County District Court will be conducted before September 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The courthouse re-opened to the public on Monday after it was closed for three months since mid-March.

Of the 12 charges he faces, Mendez also is charged with two counts of two aggravated robberies on April 27, 2019, in what is referred to as the "Central Park robbery."

Mendez is also charged with five aggravated robberies on April 30, 2019.

According to testimony during Mendez's preliminary hearing, Ballentine, Simmons and three other members of the WU football team were standing at S.W. 13th and Lane celebrating Ballentine's good fortune to be drafted into professional football on the New York Giants when Ballentine and Simmons were shot.