Federal court rejects officers' qualified immunity claim in Kan. wrongful conviction case

Floyd Bledsoe, who was wrongfully convicted of murder, claims LEOs violated his civil rights by fabricating and suppressing evidence


By Margaret Stafford
Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by several Kansas law enforcement officers who were seeking qualified immunity for their roles in the arrest and prosecution of a man who was wrongfully convicted of killing a young girl.

Floyd Bledsoe spent 16 years in prison after being convicted of killing 14-year-old Camille Arfmann in November 1999 in rural Jefferson County, Kansas.

Floyd Bledsoe's brother, Tom, was originally charged with murder after he confessed and led authorities to the body. But those charges were dropped and Floyd Bledsoe was arrested. He was convicted in 2000 of murder, kidnapping and indecent liberties with a child and sentenced to life in prison.

His brother committed suicide in 2015 after writing a note confessing to killing the girl. The charges against Floyd Bledsoe were dismissed and he was released from prison later that year after DNA evidence showed he could not have been the killer.

Bledsoe filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 against 10 defendants, including Jefferson County law enforcement officers and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents, alleging they violated his civil rights by fabricating and suppressing evidence that would have proved his innocence.

The defendants appealed a U.S. District Court judge’s decision allowing Bledsoe's lawsuit to proceed. They contended they should have qualified immunity in the case, and that Bledsoe had failed to show his rights were violated.

Qualified immunity generally protects public officials from personal liability if they acted on good faith at the time of their actions.

On Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the law officers' argument for qualified immunity and their motion to dismiss the case.

“We conclude that Bledsoe adequately alleged that each appellant participated in depriving him of his constitutional rights,” the appeals court’s decision said.

Ruth Brown, one of Bledsoe's attorneys, said in an email Wednesday that they are pleased with the appellate court's decision.

“We hope that the parties will now resume the fact-finding process of discovery without additional delay,” Brown said. “Mr. Bledsoe looks forward to getting a trial and holding Defendants accountable for causing his wrongful conviction.”

Attorneys for the defendants did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the ruling.

In 2019, the state agreed to pay Bledsoe $1.03 million under a mistaken conviction law.

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