On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court Friday threw out the 2013 Shawnee County kidnapping conviction of an immigrant from Monaco named Osi Bisa McBride. The Court ruled that former senior assistant district attorney Todd Hiatt violated McBride’s rights to a fair trial by telling the jurors the victim has as much right to the presumption of credibility as the culprit does to the presumption of innocence.
McBride of Topeka has a long and intimate relationship with the Kansas judicial system. Over the years he has been arrested for weapons violations, criminal threat, driving with a suspended license, obstructing justice, theft, aggravated burglary, and finally, in the case in question, aggravated kidnapping, rape and two counts of aggravated sodomy.
The kidnapping and rape charges date to a November 2011 incident in which McBride allegedly assaulted the victim, whom he had occasionally dated, after finding the names of other men on her cellphone. During his closing arguments at the subsequent trial, Hiatt said McBride’s alleged victim “deserved consideration similar to the presumption of innocence constitutionally recognized for criminal defendants.”
McBride was subsequently convicted. District Judge Richard Anderson sentenced him in April 2014 to 18 years in prison. Anderson called McBride a “violent, angry man” and McBride lived up to his reputation by lashing out at Anderson, saying the judge had “done a lot of messed up things.”
A Court of Appeals panel ruled that Hiatt acted improperly by presuming that the victim, having testified under oath, deserved credibility equal to McBride’s presumption of innocence. The panel, however, did not believe the error was gross, flagrant, malicious, or, given the overwhelming evidence against McBride, consequential.
The Supreme Court, which seems fond of making grand liberal gestures, overturned the appeals court decision, saying the state failed to show that the prosecutor’s error was harmless.
The timing of the decision holds added interest in that the Supreme Court specifically ruled that a rape victim who testifies under oath does not deserve to be believed a priori. The possibility that a juror might have interpreted Hiatt’s comment to mean–‘Doesn’t she deserve a certain presumption as well?’–was enough for the good justices to throw out the conviction.