It’s hard not to believe John Keith Calvin has been unjustly served by the Kansas Judicial system.  Now, yet another injustice appears inevitable with Calvin, who has stage four cancer, likely to die alone and incarcerated due to Kansas’ compassionate release laws.  

Since his arrest 20 years ago, family members and friends have been fighting for Calvin’s release.  They didn’t expect he would be leaving jail this way.  

Calvin has been diagnosed with stage four cancer and doctors say his case is terminal.  Once they learned about his diagnosis, the family appealed for his compassionate release.  The state of Kansas has a law that allows for release based on “functional incapacitation” and a terminal medical condition, but a strange requirement in the law says people convicted of an “off-grid” crime can not receive a compassionate release.   

Request for compassionate release 

Off-grid felonies are usually very serious crimes, punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. For example, rape of a child is an off-grid felony, punishable by life in prison. It’s not clear why Calvin, who was convicted as an accessory to the crime,  was convicted of an off-grid felony, but that may have something to do with Kansas City Kansas Police Department’s history of corruption.  

Still, even without an off-grid felony conviction, Families Against Mandatory Minimum ranks Kansas’ compassionate release laws an F for being a long, cumbersome and unyielding process.  

“ My plea to my peers in the legislature is that in this upcoming session we address these statutes regarding compassionate release because right now the language that is in place makes such an action nearly impossible in our state,” said KS Sen. Cindy Holscher (D – KC) during a press conference called to bring attention to Calvin’s current condition and the inability to get him released, despite his terminal diagnosis. 

The detailed layers of approval in the Kansas statute to secure a terminal person’s relief could in easily take longer than Calvin has left to live. 

Colorado’s compassionate release laws, graded A+ by the organization Families Against Mandatory Minimum, require the state to proactively identify individuals whose condition warrants a health-related release and once identified, that request for compassionate release must be approved or denied within 30 days.  There is no timeframe or sense of urgency identified in Kansas’ law.  

“Our laws are preventing an innocent man from spending his final days with his family,” said Holscher.  

Family’s Request from Health 

Absent being able to get Calvin released, his family members and supporters are calling on state officials and departments  to take the following actions:  

Transfer Calvin to Lansing Correctional Center so that he can be closer to his family.  He is currently assigned to Eldorado Correctional facility.  

  • Implement more liberal family visits.
  • Access for Calvin to an attorney so he can get his will in place and end-of-life paperwork. 
  • Adequate pain control as well as the release of medical records. 
  • Access to a religious adviser.

“We are essentially asking the state and the various departments to use whatever latitude they can within our laws to allow for his final days to be more comfortable and as much interaction with his family as possible,” said Holscher.  

Members of John Calvin’s family, his attorney, and community advocates including representatives from MORE2.

Calvin’s case 

Calvin went along with a friend to the house of his crack dealer in 2002.  The friend, Melvin White, says he asked White to go along with him, because he knew the drug dealer, John Coates, would open the door for Calvin, who was one of his regular customers.  White hung back, and when Coates opened the door for Calvin, he stepped forward, shot and killed him. 

While it may have been for a robbery or revenge over a woman the two men were both reportedly involved with, White admits his role in the murder.  He settled on a plea deal in his case, was sentenced to five years in jail and is out.  

Calvin always claimed he had no idea what White had planned and maintained his innocence in the case.  He took his case to trial and was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 20 years.  Under state law, a person can be convicted of a murder if they are an accessory to a crime that results in a murder.  

In yet another move by Detective Roger Golubski, the disgraced Kansas City Kansas Police Officer who has finally been charged with federal civil rights violations for rape and kidnapping is said to have been involved with the case.  Golubski was supposedly victimizing Calvin’s sister Rose, who was later murdered.  

White says Golubski and the lead detective in the case, Major John Cosgrove, forced him to testify Calvin knew he went to Coates’ house to kill him.  Golubski’s alleged criminal activity has finally led to charges. According to reports, Cosgrove was fired from the department in 2014, allegedly for dishonesty. 

Calvin, 56, was treated for prostate cancer in 2018.  The extent of medical care he and other prisoners receive is questionable, but his cancer is back.  He’s been told the cancer has metastasized to his colon.

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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