High court denies new trial to man convicted in 2016 shooting of now-Sheriff Brian Hill
TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday unanimously denied a request for a new trial sought by Christopher Harris after he was convicted of crimes linked to the 2016 shooting of Topeka Police Detective Brian C. Hill, who is now Shawnee County sheriff.
Justice Dan Biles wrote an opinion in which the high court rejected Harris’ legal counsel’s contention that Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios erred by allowing an “atmosphere of intimidation,” which included the presence of 15 to 20 police officers in the courtroom during closing arguments and jury instructions at his trial.
The opinion said justices concluded Harris’ attorney failed to offer any evidence to show the officers’ presence had any prejudicial impact on the jury’s decision.
Hill was an off-duty Topeka police detective when he was shot four times in November 2016 while exchanging gunfire with Harris, whom Hill shot multiple times. According to testimony, Harris shot first and Hill returned fire, minutes after Harris and another man robbed a convenience store in northeast Topeka’s Oakland community.
Hill underwent a series of surgeries after suffering life-threatening wounds. He was hit in the abdomen, left thigh, right thigh and left elbow.
Hill retired from the Topeka Police Department in 2017, was appointed sheriff to replace the outgoing Herman Jones in 2019 by the Shawnee County Republican Party Precinct Committee, then kept that office by winning election last year.
Harris was hospitalized for 20 days with wounds suffered in the gun battle, then booked into the Shawnee County Jail.
He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 54 years, five months in prison after being convicted of attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and criminal possession of a firearm.
Harris is an inmate at El Dorado Correctional Facility, according to the website of the Kansas Department of Corrections.