In an unusual but not unprecedented move, the Kansas Supreme Court recently
held back-to-back sessions and hearings at the Topeka High School, where
several hundred people attended to see how the justice system worked up
close. Attorney Dustin Van Dyk of Palmer Law Group LLP was there to present
a legal argument during the first hearing, which was centered on the death
of Ms. Keiswetter in 2008.
While he was on work detail, Norton Correctional Facility inmate Christopher
Zorn simply walked away, having not been under any sort of security or
surveillance. He would later break into Keiswetter’s home, assault
her, and leave her locked in a closet. Some two months later, injuries
sustained during the assault caused health complications and her passing.
The Kansas Court of Appeals had ruled that the state was not liable for
Zorn’s escape or subsequent actions. The inmate had a history of
aggravated burglary but not assault, which the state argued was not indicative
of inherently dangerous behavior. Attorney Van Dyk made the point that
the escape was only made possible due to the total lack of supervision.
It could be argued that no inmate on work detail, no matter how nonviolent
their convictions may be, should be given the opportunity to walk off
site and walk free.
It is important to find justice for Ms. Keiswetter and her loved ones but
it is also important for the Kansas Supreme Court to bring finality to
this issue of state liability in escape convict cases. Attorney Van Dyk
called attention to the fact that previous rulings and precedents were
“muddled” at best and did not provide clear enough grounds
on how the law should be interpreted. No matter how they rule on Keiswetter’s
case, they need to do so with clarity to avoid further complications in
Once arguments were completed for the Keiswetter case hearing, the Kansas
Supreme Court looked at a second case involving corporations and their
right to a speedy trial. Spencer Gifts was accused of promoting harmful
and obscene material to minors in 2010 but its case lingered, potentially
damaging the company’s reputation. The hearing on the Spencer Gifts
case ended without much insight as to how the Kansas Supreme Court would
At the end of the day, it was a unique process that opened the doors of
one of the highest courts in the country to the public. Our law firm is
appreciative of the opportunity Attorney Van Dyk was given to speak at
the hearings, and we hope his argument will be considered. If you would
like more information about Attorney Van Dyk or our legal services, feel free to
contact our Topeka personal injury attorneys today.