Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, holding that, even if the Court find one error and assume the existence of another, these errors did not, individually or collectively, require reversal of Defendant's conviction. Specifically, the Court held (1) the prosecutor use of the phrase "I think" qualified as error, but this brief indiscretion did not merit reversal; (2) even if the district court erred in failing to instruct sua sponte on reckless second-degree murder and reckless involuntary manslaughter, the error was not clear; (3) Defendant's remaining allegations of error were without merit; and (4) the errors - one identified and one assumed - did not cumulatively prejudice Defendant and did not deprive him of a fair trial. View "State v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court rejecting Appellant's argument that a nineteen-month delay between his arrest and trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial, holding that Appellant failed to establish a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 10 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. In support of his argument, Appellant contended that the court of appeals erred in ruling that the six months he spent in juvenile detention should not be counted in determining the length of the delay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the right to a speedy trial applies in juvenile offender proceedings, and therefore, Appellant's period of juvenile detention should be included in a calculation of how long it took to get to trial; but (2) Appellant's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated, even considering the full nineteen-month delay rather than the thirteen months considered by the court of appeals. View "State v. Owens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of intentionally placing another in fear or of making a threat in reckless disregard of causing fear, holding that, under today's decision in State v. Boettger, __ P.3d __ (Kan. 2019), the making-a-threat-in-reckless-disregard alternative is unconstitutionally overbroad, thus requiring reversal of Defendant's conviction. The jury convicted Defendant of criminal threat. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and vacated his sentence, holding (1) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's conviction for making a criminal threat; but (2) it was unclear that the jury convicted Defendant on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant acted intentionally, and the State did not meet its burden of proving that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of premeditated murder, four aggravated batteries, and criminal possession of a firearm, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not commit prejudicial misconduct when it denied Defendant's motion for mistrial; (2) the district court did not err when it failed to instruct the jury to view with caution the testimony of a witness for benefits; (3) the district court did not err when it denied Defendant's motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence; (4) the State presented sufficient evidence of premeditation; and (5) the evidence of Defendant's gang affiliation was admissible. View "State v. Dean" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of one count of criminal threat, holding that the provision in the Kansas criminal threat statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5415(a)(1), that allows for a criminal conviction if a person makes a threat in reckless disregard of causing fear is unconstitutionally overbroad. The jury convicted Defendant of one count of reckless criminal threat under section 21-5415(a)91). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003), the portion of section 21-5415(a)(1) allowing for a conviction if a threat of violence is made in reckless disregard for causing fear causes the statute to be unconstitutionally over broad because it can apply to statements made without the intent to cause fear of violence; and (2) because Defendant's conviction for reckless criminal threat was based solely on the unconstitutional provision at issue, the conviction must be reversed. View "State v. Boettger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for driving under the influence, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits the State to use evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's breath test. Before the court of appeals considered Defendant's appeal the Supreme Court published its decisions in State v. Ryce, 368 P.3d 342 (Kan. 2016) and State v. Nece, 367 P.3d 1260 (Kan. 2016). Those decisions declared Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1025's criminalization of a driver's refusal to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing to be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, a consent to submit to BAC testing after being advised that a refusal was a criminal act rendered the consent unduly coerced and invalid. In Defendant's case, the court of appeals concluded that Defendant's consent to search was invalid but affirmed on the basis that the good-faith exception applied to save the evidence from the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permitted the State to convict Defendant with unconstitutionally obtained evidence. View "State v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that his transfer was retaliatory, holding that the common-law tort of retaliation may be premised on an employer's action short of dismissal or demotion. Plaintiff, a Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) trooper, alleged that the KHP retaliated by requiring him to move across the state to keep his job after the Kansas Civil Service Board ordered the agency to reinstate him to work. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, although the lower courts disagreed as to inquiries at issue on this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case, holding (1) common-law retaliation may be premised on the involuntary job relocation alleged in this case; (2) sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim; but (3) there were genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. View "Hill v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's summary denial of Defendant's second Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507 motion and remanding the case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether trial counsel was ineffective, holding that the court of appeals applied an incorrect standard to determine whether the district court should have considered a second or successive motion. In his second section 60-1507 motion Defendant argued that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to pursue a defense of mental defect and to request jury instructions regarding the defense of mental defect. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a hearing on whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Defendant's mental defect defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the district court did not have to find exceptional circumstances to consider the merits of Defendant's section 60-1507 motion. View "Littlejohn v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's two criminal threat convictions and his domestic battery conviction and reversing Defendant's aggravated assault conviction, holding that, although the Court's reasoning differed from the court of appeals on Defendant's Brady claim, the court of appeals reached the right result. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was entitled to a new trial because the prosecutor had not timely disclosed a disciplinary report of a deputy sheriff involved in the incident. The court of appeals rejected Defendant's Brady argument in part because the prosecutor had not "suppressed" the report. The Supreme Court held (1) although the court of appeals' reasoning was infirm the court properly rejected Defendant's Brady claim because there was no reasonable probability that Defendant would not have been convicted if the report had been produced to the defense earlier; (2) there was no double jeopardy or multiplicity problem regarding Defendant's two convictions of criminal threat; (3) the prosecutor made an improper statement during closing argument, but the error did not contribute to the verdict; and (4) the district judge did not err by refusing to recall the jury or by denying Defendant's related motion for a new trial. View "State v. Hirsh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the district court suppressing evidence obtained after police officers unconstitutionally detained Defendant, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the attenuation doctrine under the facts of this case. In suppressing evidence obtained in a search of Defendant the district court concluded that police officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant. The court of appeals agreed but determined that the attenuation doctrine applied. Specifically, the court concluded that the officers' discovery of a preexisting arrest warrant after they seized and search Defendant attenuated the taint of the unconstitutional seizure. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officers' duty to execute the arrest warrant did not attenuate the taint of the unlawful seizure. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law