Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the lower court finding the legislative reapportionment in the map colloquially known as "Ad Astra 2" constitutionally deficient as a partisan and racial gerrymander, holding that Plaintiffs did not prevail on any of their claims that Ad Astra 2 violates the Kansas Constitution.The district court held that Sub. SB 355 violates the Kansas Constitution as both a partisan and a racial gerrymander. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claims; (2) claims of excessive partisan gerrymandering are nonjusticiable in Kansas; and (3) Plaintiffs did not establish the elements of their race-based claims. View "Rivera v. Schwab" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the validity of Substitute for Senate Bill 563 (Sub. SB 563), holding that the Kansas State House and Kansas State Senate reapportionment maps contained within Sub. SB 563 contain no constitutional errors.The two maps at issue were approved by bipartisan majorities, and Sub. SB 563 was signed into law on April 15, 2022. On April 25, Attorney General Derek Schmidt petitioned the Supreme Court to determine the validity of Sub. SB 563, as required by Kan. Const. art. 10, 1(b). The Supreme Court held that Sub. SB 563 passed constitutional muster because the legislative maps contained therein satisfied the constitutional requirement of one person one vote, they were not discriminatory, and they satisfied the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. View "In re Validity of Substitute for Senate Bill 563" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for failing to register as a violent offender in Shawnee County in November 2017, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction.Defendant's obligation to register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4902 et seq., arose after he was found guilty of robbery and criminal use of a financial card. After Defendant was released from prison, he failed to register in Shawnee County during November 2017. The State subsequently charged him with a registration violation under section 22-4905(b). A jury convicted Defendant of violating the registration requirements. Defendant appealed, arguing that the jury could not reasonably infer that he resided in Shawnee County in November 2017. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence provided a basis for a reasonable inference that Defendant resided in Shawnee County in November 2017. View "State v. Huey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, holding that any error in this case did not affect the verdict and was therefore harmless.On appeal, Defendant asserted multiple claims of trial error, including a claim that the district court clearly erred by failing to provide the jury with a cautionary instruction on the reliability of eyewitness identifications. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) the district court erred by failing to provide the cautionary instruction, which was legally and factually appropriate, at trial, but the court's instructional error did not warrant reversal; and (2) Defendant's remaining claims of error were without merit. View "State v. Shields" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2004, Ross was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and criminal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus nine months (consecutive) for criminal possession of a firearm. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed. Ross continued to seek relief through several post-conviction motions.In 2021, Ross filed a pro se motion captioned "Informational defect/Lack of Jurisdiction under K.S.A. 22-3201(b)(c)(e)(f)(g)(e)," arguing that the criminal complaint filed by the state "failed to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the trial court" because it failed to state essential facts constituting each of the charged offenses. The district court reviewed the claim on the merits but denied his request for relief: "Charging documents do not bestow or confer subject matter jurisdiction on state courts to adjudicate criminal cases; the Kansas Constitution does. … A charging document shall state "essential facts" constituting the crime charged, and the document "shall be deemed sufficient" if it is "drawn in the language of the statute." In Ross’s case, the charging document adequately stated the elements of the crimes of conviction. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed. Ross failed to identify a timely, unexhausted, and proper procedural vehicle for presenting his subject matter jurisdiction challenge. View "State v. Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Bailey was convicted of aggravated criminal sodomy in 1988 for his role in an incident in the Wyandotte County jail. Bailey's third petition for forensic DNA testing of biological material from a rape kit was summarily denied. He did not appeal one of the earlier denials but appealed the second and lost on appeal.The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed. Bailey is barred from relitigating the issues he raised by the application of issue preclusion principles to the prior determinations that he cannot meet the threshold requirements of K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-2512(a), which allows certain criminally convicted individuals to petition for postconviction forensic DNA testing. The prior rulings holding the state has no biological material related to Bailey's convictions in its actual or constructive possession is determinative of his ability to obtain postconviction forensic testing. View "State v. Bailey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After a planned methamphetamine purchase fell apart, the buyers attacked the sellers. Hillard was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in connection with the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Goodpaster and the kidnapping and rape of Goodpaster's girlfriend, S.S. Hillard committed these offenses with several codefendants, including his wife Heidi, with whom he was jointly tried. The district court sentenced Hillard to life without the possibility of parole for 50 years plus 330 consecutive months.The Supreme Court of Kansas affirmed in part but held that the evidence was insufficient to support Hillard’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The court rejected multiple other challenges to the admission of evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence, and jury instructions. The emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement justified an initial cursory search of Hillard’s residence; no evidence was seized after that exception ceased to apply and before a warrant was issued. All of the search warrants, including one for a surveillance system, were supported by probable cause. The inevitable discovery rule applied to material that was obtained beyond the scope of the warrants. View "State v. Hillard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court summarily denying Defendant's motions to correct illegal sentences for three counts of first-degree murder and other crimes, holding that Defendant's claims failed.Defendant brought a series of pro se motions attacking his convictions. The district court consolidated the motions and summarily denied them, concluding that none of the motions raised a substantial issue of law or fact that would support the grounds for relief allowed under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3504. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district judge did not err in summarily denying Defendant's motions to correct an illegal sentence. View "State v. Vasquez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court summarily dismissing Defendant's motion filed under Kan. stat. Ann. 22-3501 seeking a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, holding that the district court did not err in summarily dismissing the motion as untimely.More than twenty years after the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder Defendant filed his section 22-3501 motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The district court denied the motion as time-barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in construing Defendant's pleading to be a motion for a new trial and in refusing to construe it to be one brought under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507; and (2) did not err in summarily dismissing the motion as untimely. View "State v. Davidson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's second direct appeal asserting claims that would have existed at the time the first appeal was filed, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Appellant's untimely appeal.In 1993, Appellant was convicted and sentenced for various crimes related to a homicide. In 2013, Appellant filed a pro se notice of appeal, arguing that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to hear his late appeal under an exception to the general rule disallowing late appeals. After eight years of litigation, the appeal was ultimately unsuccessful. Appellant filed a second appeal nearly thirty years after his sentencing attempting to appeal his sentence. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the Court lacked appellate jurisdiction. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law