Appeals court rules against inmate’s claim that escape law applied unfairly

Thursday, December 27, 2007 | 11:15 a.m. CST; updated 12:30 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — A federal appellate court has upheld a Missouri law that limits the appeal rights of convicted criminals who escape.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Wednesday rejected Alan Echols’ claim that the escape law was applied inconsistently and arbitrarily.

Echols, now 43, fled while awaiting sentencing in Jackson County for first-degree murder in the 1990 slaying of his mistress’ husband, Ronald Nichols, who was stabbed 60 times outside a Kansas City nightclub.

That escape made Echols subject to the law that limited his right to appeal the conviction.

Echols was apprehended in Louisiana in 1999. He was returned to Jackson County and was sentenced to life in prison.

The Missouri Court of Appeals allowed Echols to appeal his conviction based on the use of his confession at trial. The escape rule is left to the discretion of the courts.

Echols’ appeal failed. When he raised subsequent legal issues, the court denied the hearing based on the escape rule.

A federal judge also declined to take the case, and Wednesday the U.S. appeals court affirmed that judge’s decision.

“Echols has not shown that Missouri treated him differently than it would another similarly situated defendant,” the court said in its ruling.

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