Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for first-degree murder, attempted distribution of a controlled substance, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a firearm, holding that any error resulting from the district court's exclusion of certain testimony was harmless. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's convictions were not multiplicitous; (2) Defendant's argument that the State committed prosecutorial error when it made certain comments during its cross-examination of a certain witness was in essence an evidentiary question not properly preserved for appeal; (3) the district court's error in upholding a witness's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege and excluding his testimony, if any, was harmless; and (4) the cumulative doctrine did not apply. View "State v. George" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant's postsentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea after it found that the record conclusively showed Defendant's plea was knowing and voluntarily made, holding that the district court correctly denied the motion. Defendant pled guilty to premeditated first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, felony theft, forgery, and misdemeanor theft. In his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, Defendant argued that he had a mental illness that rendered his plea involuntary. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motion without an evidentiary hearing and that his counsel was ineffective because he did not have Defendant undergo a mental health evaluation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to show the manifest injustice necessary to allow him to withdraw his plea; and (2) counsel's decision to forgo a mental health evaluation did not constitute deficient representation. View "State v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated its judgment reversing the judgment of the court of appeals, which reversed the district court's ruling granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop, holding that the district court's judgment is affirmed in accordance with the decision of the United States Supreme Court. The district court determined that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of illegal activity when he stopped the vehicle, making the seizure of Defendant a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals. The United States Supreme Court granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari and reversed, holding that the investigative traffic stop was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, the Kansas Supreme Court vacated its judgment reversing the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "State v. Glover" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court determining that Appellant's claim for attorney fees and expenses should be decided by the court and not a jury, holding that Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to a jury trial to determine an award of attorney fees and expenses. The two cases leading to the attorney fee dispute arose of the sale of real property to Appellant. The first lawsuit was filed in 2013, and the second lawsuit was filed in 2015. After the case was decided, the district court denied Appellant's request for a jury trial on the issue of attorney fees and expenses, determining that the issue would be heard by the court and not by a jury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Kansas Constitution does not guarantee the right to a jury trial to determine whether attorney fees and expenses should be award; (2) Appellant waived her request for a jury trial to determine attorney fees in the 2013 case; and (3) Appellant's claim for attorney fees under the third-party litigation exception to the American rule is an equitable claim that should be decided by the court rather than a jury. View "Harder v. Estate of Foster " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's challenge to the constitutionality of his sentence, holding that because Defendant did not object to the district court's failure to make factual findings at sentencing and he did not file a motion under Kansas Supreme Court Rule 165, Defendant's as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of his sentence was not amenable to appellate review. Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder, an off-grid person felony mandating a hard twenty-five sentence. Before sentencing, Defendant argued that his hard twenty-five sentence was unconstitutional as applied to the facts of his case under section 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. The district court found the sentence constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Defendant failed to meet his obligation to ensure the district court made the factual findings necessary for appellate review, Defendant failed to preserve his as-applied constitutional challenge for appellate review. View "State v. Espinoza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of possession fo marijuana, holding that Defendant's waiver of jury trial was legally insufficient. On appeal, Defendant argued that he did not properly waive his right to a jury and asserted three other issues. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions without addressing the three remaining issues, holding that because the district court failed properly to apprise Defendant of his right to a jury trial and failed to ensure that Defendant understood the nature of the right he was giving up, Defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial was violated in this case. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated interference with parental custody, holding that Defendant's post-arrest confession was voluntary and that any violation of Defendant's due process rights was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that her confession was involuntary and that its admission at trial was reversible error. Defendant also argued that the State violated her due process rights at trial by mentioning her invocation of her rights. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) substantial competent evidence supported the foundation of the district court's decision that Defendant's confession was voluntary and admissible; and (2) where the State thoroughly undermined Defendant's credibility, any fleeting mention of Defendant's invocation of her rights was harmless error. View "State v. Sesmas" on Justia 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