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Mother of Kansas man charged in drug-deal death is running for governor

Updated: 2014-01-08T13:42:17Z

The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita mother’s frustration over the way the courts have treated her son in a marijuana deal that turned deadly has inspired the latest challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Jennifer Winn, a Republican and co-owner of a family landscaping business, has scheduled a rally Saturday to formally announce her candidacy for governor. She said she has been preparing her campaign since late September, when she filed papers appointing a treasurer.

Winn is the mother of Kyler Carriker, 22, who faces a charge of first-degree murder in Sedgwick County District Court in connection with an April drug deal that led to the death of Ronald Betts, 33, of Derby.

Winn said she was an ordinary businessperson who didn’t pay much attention to government until her son’s case “went off like a bomb” in her lap. She said he didn’t kill anyone and that all he did was “tell a friend where he could buy some marijuana.”

Now, she’s become an advocate for marijuana legalization, blaming criminalization of the drug for the lawlessness and danger that accompanies trading in it.

“This is what’s happening to our kids,” she said. “I’m not going to sit back and do nothing.”

She also is highly critical of what she considers overtaxation to pay for “wasteful” spending to keep nonviolent drug offenders in prison.

Winn strongly supports jury nullification, the legal theory that jurors can acquit a defendant regardless of what the law says if they believe a conviction would be unjust.

Prosecutors allege that Carriker helped arrange a marijuana transaction that turned into a gunfight when the purported customers attempted to rob the dealers for the drugs.

Last month, Kyle Beltz, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder for his role in Betts’ death during the chaotic exchange of gunfire.

Carriker is not alleged to have shot anyone and, according to his mother, was shot himself during the attempted robbery.

He’s being charged under a law that allows prosecutors to bring murder counts against anyone participating in a crime that results in a fatality.

According to court records, Carriker was expecting to receive a $50 finder’s fee from what was supposed to be a $1,100 marijuana sale.

Winn has no particular criticism of Brownback for what she says are systemic problems across government – state, local and federal.

Asked why she chose to make her political debut in the race for the state’s top office, she answered, “Why not?”

She said she hopes her candidacy will inspire others to become involved in the political system.

“People say ‘Oh, you’re just running to save your son,’” Winn said. “I say ‘No, I’m running to save your son.’”

Winn’s rally is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Kiwanis Park Recreational Building, 5101 W. Second St., Wichita.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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