Family of wrongfully convicted Wyandotte County man to receive $826,000 in settlement

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Gov. Laura Kelly heads a meeting of the State Finance Council Thursday. The panel approved a settlement in the wrongful conviction case of Olin "Pete" Coones.

A settlement with the family of Olin "Pete" Coones, a Wyandotte County man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 12 years in a state prison, was officially authorized Thursday by a state panel.

The move comes weeks after a Shawnee County District Court judge signed off on the $826,301 payment at the behest of Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Coones was charged in the 2008 Kansas City, Kan., double homicide of Kathleen Schroll and her husband, Carl, although he was eventually convicted in only one of the murders.

His conviction was in large part based on the testimony of a jailhouse informant and Coones' lawyers argue the prosecution negligently handled evidence, which could have exonerated him.

He was exonerated in November 2020 after the event was deemed to be a murder-suicide carried out by Kathleen Schroll. Coones died in February from cancer, 108 days after he was released from prison. His attorneys argue the condition went undiagnosed during his time in prison.

Coones' estate opted to continue his claim under the state's wrongful conviction statute. In addition to the monetary compensation, records of his arrest and conviction will be expunged and his family will be given an official document certifying his innocence.

It is the fifth instance in which a case has been settled under the wrongful conviction statute, which gives individuals $65,000 for each year they were incarcerated, plus attorney's fees. Five other cases are being litigated.

New toll intended to reduce congestion

The council also signed off on tolling for part of U.S. Route 69 in Overland Park as part of a joint project between the city and the Kansas Department of Transportation to underwrite a $300 million highway expansion.

The move is part of an effort to reduce traffic congestion in the region. The toll would be only for the outer lanes, creating an express lane for drivers. Prices would fluctuate depending on the level of traffic.

"This is for the entire region and what it could do to move people to jobs and work," said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe.