Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that this Court cannot consider the merits of Defendant's constitutional arguments because a motion to correct an illegal sentence is an improper vehicle for them. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole for twenty-five years, known as a hard twenty-five, upon his plea of no contest to first-degree murder. Defendant later filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that his hard twenty-five was constitutionally disproportionate and that the district judge erred by imposing lifetime postrelease supervision. The district court agreed that Defendant should not be subject to lifetime postrelease supervision but rejected Defendant's constitutional challenge. Defendant appealed, arguing that his hard twenty-five was disproportionate under the state and federal constitutions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a motion to correct an illegal sentence cannot raise claims that a sentence violates a constitutional provision. View "State v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence arising from an armed robbery in which a victim was killed by an accomplice, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's felony-murder conviction did not violate due process because the felony-murder statute does not remove from the jury's consideration an intent element required by criminal statute; (2) the district court did not commit clear error when it instructed the jury to apply the law if the State proved all elements of the charged offenses; (3) the prosecutor did not commit error during voir dire by saying that an empaneled jury could not "debate" the law; (4) Defendant's constitutional challenges to his hard twenty-five life sentence were unavailing; and (5) Defendant's Apprendi challenge to the use of criminal history scores was without merit. View "State v. Patterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant conviction based on a violation of the right to jury trial but affirming the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the court of appeals did not err in agreeing with the district court's conclusion that the officer had probable cause to support a reasonable belief that Defendant had been driving while intoxicated beyond the legal limit. Defendant was convicted of aggravated battery while driving under the influence of alcohol. The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless blood draw. The court of appeals reversed the conviction but affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress, concluding that the factors in this case supported probable cause. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, holding (1) probable cause existed in this case; and (2) as to the issue of whether the warrantless blood draw was justified by exigent circumstances the case must be remanded for an evidentiary hearing and a ruling from the district court on exigency in light of Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 588 U.S. __ (2019). View "State v. Chavez-Majors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for robbery, kidnapping, and criminal threat, holding that the court of appeals panel property found that any trial errors were harmless both individually and collectively. On appeal, the panel denied Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and affirmed the convictions, concluding that two trial errors were harmless. The Supreme Court affirmed, although its reasoning differed from the panel's, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence supporting the robbery conviction; (2) there was error in two of the jury instructions, but the verdict would not have been different without the errors; (3) the cumulative effect of the instructional errors did not require reversal; and (4) Defendant did not suffer prejudice on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

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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