Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for resentencing, in which Defendant argued that Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013), rendered his hard forty sentence unconstitutional. After a second trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder. The district court sentenced Defendant to life in prison with no possibility of parole for forty years. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence in 2007. In 2016, Defendant filed a motion for resentencing, asserting that his sentence was unconstitutional pursuant to Alleyne. The district court construed Defendant’s motion as a collateral challenge under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507 and concluded that Defendant was not entitled to relief because Alleyne cannot be applied retroactively to a sentence that was final when Alleyne was decided. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that whether Defendant’s pleading was construed as a motion to correct an illegal sentence or a collateral attack under section 60-1507(b), Defendant was not entitled to relief because Alleyne did not render his sentence unconstitutional. View "State v. Albright" 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s summary denial of Defendant’s motion to correct an illegal sentence under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3504(1), rejecting each of Defendant’s claims of error. The court held (1) Defendant was not entitled to resentencing based on State v. Murdock, 323 P.3d 846 (Kan. 2014), which was overruled by State v. Keel, 357 P.3d 251 (Kan. 2015); (2) the application of Keel to Defendant’s motion does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the federal Constitution; (3) the classification of Defendant’s prior offenses as person/nonperson offenses does not violate the Sixth Amendment to the federal Constitution; and (4) the district court did not deprive Defendant of a statutory right to a hearing when it summarily denied relief. View "State v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of failing to register as required by the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), holding that the retroactive application of KORA to Defendant did not amount to a retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause. Defendant pled guilty to possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and to selling cocaine. While Defendant served her prison sentence, the Kansas Legislature amended KORA to require drug offenders such as Defendant to register. After Defendant was paroled, she was found guilty of failing to register and ordered to pay a $200 DNA database fee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) KORA’s registration requirements as applied to drug offenders are not punishment or subject to the limitations of the Ex Post Facto Clause; (2) Defendant’s original sentence was not illegal; and (3) the district court did not err when it ordered Defendant to pay the DNA database fee over her objection. View "State v. Simmons" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district court denying Appellant’s presentence motion to withdraw plea as well as his request to appoint new counsel connected with the requirement that Appellant register as a drug offender pursuant to the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA). On appeal, Appellant argued, in essence, that retroactively requiring him to register violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court held that KORA’s registration requirements as applied to drug offenders are not punishment and subject to the limitations of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and therefore, the district court properly disposed of Appellant’s request. View "State v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals and district court and vacated Defendant’s convictions, holding that this court could not determine from the record whether the district judge examined any unreasonable “use” of race in the traffic stop of Defendant, which is the conduct prohibited by Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4609, as opposed to examining whether Defendant’s race was the ultimate “cause” of the traffic stop. The district judge denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Before the Supreme Court, Defendant argued that a law enforcement officer violated section 22-4609, the biased-police policing statute, in stopping him for a traffic infraction and that this violation required suppression of the evidence obtained during the traffic stop under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3216(1). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the lower courts, holding that it could not be determined from the record whether the district court applied the correct test to Defendant’s argument that a statutory violation created a possible suppression remedy. View "State v. Gray" on Justia Law