Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district court and court of appeals ruling that a search of Defendant’s van, which resulted in the discovery of drugs and a meth pipe, was not in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. Specifically, the Court held that the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress because assuming, without deciding, that the initial encounter became an investigatory detention, it was supported by reasonable suspicion and was therefore legal, and Defendant’s consent to the search during that time was not tainted. View "State v. Hanke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. The Court held (1) sufficient evidence existed such that a rational fact-finder could have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the two murders; (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct by falsely claiming that one of the victims got a protection from abuse order against Defendant from the district court, and this error prejudiced Defendant’s due process right to a fair trial and required reversal; and (3) the prosecutor committed other errors in arguments to the jury and by disobeying a court order. The Court remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. Chandler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for unintentional second-degree murder for shooting and killing his friend while they celebrated New Year’s Eve. The Court held (1) contrary to Defendant’s assertion, the statute defining unintentional second-degree murder is not unconstitutionally vague; (2) the evidence supported the jury’s finding that Defendant acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; (3) the district court’s procedure when answering a jury question did not violate Defendant’s right to be present at every critical stage of the trial, and the court’s answer to the question was not an abuse of discretion; and (4) the court’s failure to give a limiting instruction about certain evidence was not in error. View "State v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for unintentional second-degree murder for shooting and killing his friend while they celebrated New Year’s Eve. The Court held (1) contrary to Defendant’s assertion, the statute defining unintentional second-degree murder is not unconstitutionally vague; (2) the evidence supported the jury’s finding that Defendant acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; (3) the district court’s procedure when answering a jury question did not violate Defendant’s right to be present at every critical stage of the trial, and the court’s answer to the question was not an abuse of discretion; and (4) the court’s failure to give a limiting instruction about certain evidence was not in error. View "State v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The district court incorrectly sentenced Defendant by misclassifying a 2007 Michigan home invasion conviction as a person felony when calculating Defendant’s criminal history score under the revised Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act. Defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a firearm and theft. The sentencing court imposed a sentence of eighteen months’ imprisonment. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor committed two errors during closing argument, but the errors were harmless; and (2) the district court correctly classified the Michigan conviction as a person felony. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions but vacated his sentence, holding (1) the prosecutorial error in closing argument was harmless; but (2) the Michigan conviction must be scored as a nonperson felony because the Michigan home invasion was not comparable to the Kansas offense of burglary of a dwelling as it existed when Defendant committed the crimes in this case. View "State v. Sturgis" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in holding Defendant in contempt of court for invoking his constitutional right to remain silent. Defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to an eighty-three-month prison sentence. After his trial was completed, the State subpoenaed Defendant to be a witness at a codefendant’s murder trial. The State granted Defendant use immunity for his testimony, and the trial judge ordered Defendant to testify in the codefendant’s trial. Defendant, however, refused the judge’s order to testify. After the codefendant was convicted, a different judge held Defendant in contempt for failing to comply with the order of the court “to appear and testify under oath as a witness.” The judge then found Defendant guilty of direct criminal contempt and sentenced him to 108 months' imprisonment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the use immunity granted to Defendant was not coextensive with Defendant’s constitutional right against self-incrimination, and therefore, the judge’s order compelling Defendant’s testimony at his codefendant’s trial violated Defendant’s constitutional right against self-incrimination and was unlawful; and (2) the ensuing order finding Defendant in direct contempt of court for refusing to testify was likewise unlawful. View "State v. Delacruz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of battery and other offenses, holding that the trial court committed structural error in handling Defendant’s invocation of his right to self-representation. At a motions hearing before Defendant’s trial was to begin, Defendant interjected during argument before the court and stated that he wanted it on the record that he was “unequivocally” asserting his right to self-representation. The judge refused to take up the matter of self-representation, telling Defendant that he must file a written motion if he wanted to represent himself. Defendant did not file the motion or otherwise reassert the right to self-representation when court reconvened. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence, rejecting Defendant’s claim that he was denied his right to self-representation. The Supreme Court concluded that Defendant was denied his right to self-representation and that the error was structural. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. Bunyard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of battery and other offenses, holding that the trial court committed structural error in handling Defendant’s invocation of his right to self-representation. At a motions hearing before Defendant’s trial was to begin, Defendant interjected during argument before the court and stated that he wanted it on the record that he was “unequivocally” asserting his right to self-representation. The judge refused to take up the matter of self-representation, telling Defendant that he must file a written motion if he wanted to represent himself. Defendant did not file the motion or otherwise reassert the right to self-representation when court reconvened. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence, rejecting Defendant’s claim that he was denied his right to self-representation. The Supreme Court concluded that Defendant was denied his right to self-representation and that the error was structural. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. Bunyard" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for capital murder and his sentence of death. The court held (1) the State did not commit prosecutorial error by objecting during Defendant’s closing argument; (2) the district court judge engaged in one incident of judicial misconduct, but the error did not require reversal; (3) the district judge erred in refusing to give a requested expert witness instruction, but the error was harmless; (4) Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3220 did not unconstitutionally abrogate Kansas’ former insanity defense; (5) the district judge did not err in failing to give a lesser included instruction on felony murder; (6) the district judge did not prohibit defense counsel from questioning prospective jurors during voir dire about their views on the death penalty; (7) the cumulative effect of trial errors did not deny Defendant a fair trial; (8) the Kansas death penalty is not a categorically disproportionate punishment for offenders who are “severely mentally ill” at the time they commit their crimes; (9) the aggravating factors supporting the death penalty are not unconstitutionally vague or duplicative; and (10) sufficient evidence supported the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating circumstance. View "State v. Kahler" on Justia Law

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A Kansas court may proceed with a hearing on a Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507 motion after a defendant’s term of probation has expired and the defendant has been released from physical custody. In her pro se motion filed under section 60-1507, Defendant argued that her counsel provided ineffective assistance during her criminal proceedings. The district court summarily denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Defendant’s release from probation did not deprive the courts of jurisdiction but concluding that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant’s argument that her section 60-1507 counsel was ineffective because the issue was not included in the notice of appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court had jurisdiction over Defendant’s appeal even where she had been released from custody; (2) the court of appeals erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to determine Defendant’s ineffective assistance of section 60-1507 counsel claim; (3) it was not clear from the record whether section 60-1507 counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) summary denial of Defendant’s 60-1407 motion was appropriate. View "Mundy v. State" on Justia Law