In a decision written by Justice Marla Luckert, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Adam J. Longoria’s Barton County convictions of capital murder, vehicle burglary, and theft. Justice Lee Johnson concurred in the result, issuing a separate opinion.
In August 2010, 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt, Great Bend, went missing. About three days later, investigators discovered the burnt remains of her body at an asphalt plant where Longoria worked. The homicide investigation led to 36-year-old Longoria; the girl was last seen entering his vehicle on the night she went missing. In a stain on the floorboard of Longoria’s vehicle, investigators found a mixture of his semen and the girl’s bodily fluid. Text messages between Longoria and the girl throughout the month preceding her death depicted his one-sided sexual interest in her. Officers arrested Longoria after seeing him on the interstate in a reportedly stolen company vehicle. Longoria argued his convictions should be reversed for a number of reasons, each of which the court found without merit.
First, the publicity surrounding Longoria’s case was not so pervasive and prejudicial that Barton County could not provide an unbiased jury pool. Likewise, the district court was correct to deny Longoria’s request to move his trial to a different location. Second, the district court committed no reversible error by not providing the jury with alternative instructions for felony murder and unintentional second-degree murder. Third, it was not error for the district court to admit a before-death photograph of the victim because the photo was relevant and not unduly prejudicial. Fourth, a redacted video of Longoria’s arrest was relevant to the alleged vehicle theft and did not unduly prejudice his defense. Prior to the video, an officer explained that the standard procedure for any vehicle theft is to arrest the suspect with weapons drawn. So the video did not affect Longoria’s presumption of innocence. Fifth, the prosecutor’s sarcastic comments about Longoria’s defense bordered on misconduct. But the prosecutor always returned to discussion of specific evidence, bringing his comments within the bounds of proper argument. Sixth, the district court properly denied a motion for mistrial based on juror misconduct. Indeed, evidence supported the district court’s finding that the juror committed no misconduct. Lastly, there was sufficient evidence that Longoria committed a sexual crime against the 14-year-old girl, which was necessary to support Longoria’s conviction for capital murder.
Justice Lee Johnson concurred in affirming Longoria’s convictions. He, however, would have analyzed the omitted instruction on unintentional second-degree murder differently. And he would have found admission of the before-death photo to be an error, although harmless in Longoria’s case.