Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal 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 denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his 1982 guilty pleas following an evidentiary hearing on the motion, holding that Defendant failed to establish a factual basis for his argument and, consequently failed to establish excusable neglect. Specifically, the Court held that Defendant did not meet his burden of establishing any facts that might conceivably support an equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Defendant did not establish excusable neglect to permit his untimely filing. View "State v. Fox" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant to lifetime postrelease supervision after he was convicted of burglary, theft, criminal damage to property, aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and criminal sodomy, holding that due to the nature and timing of his offenses, Defendant was subject to lifetime postrelease supervision under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-371(d)(1)(G). While Defendant's appeal was pending, the Supreme Court released State v. Brook, 440 P.3d 570 (Kan. 2019), ruling that section 22-3717 provided that persons who, like Defendant, committed sexually violent offenses after July 1, 2006 were subject to lifetime postrelease. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the date of the sexually violent offense was the controlling factor, with section 22-3717(d)(1)(G) applying to persons who, like Defendant, committed sexually violent crimes on or after July 1, 2006. View "State v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of reckless driving and second-degree murder for unintentional but reckless homicide, holding that no error infected the district court's rulings on the three issues that Defendant raised in his petition for review. Specifically, the Court held (1) a prior diversion agreement Defendant entered into subsequent to an arrest for driving while intoxicated was properly introduced into evidence in order to prove recklessness; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony about the relative speeds of the two vehicles at the time of the collision; and (3) the district court did not err in refusing Defendant's requested voluntary intoxication instruction. View "State v. Claerhout" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court judge denying Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that where Defendant failed to establish that his sentence was illegal at the time it was imposed the district court correctly denied Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Based on Defendant's criminal history score, the district judge sentenced him to life in prison for murder and a consecutive 233 months for aggravated robbery. Defendant later filed his motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that subsequent changes in the law rendered his sentence illegal. The district court denied the motion. Defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was illegal under State v. Wetrich, 412 P.3d 984 (Kan. 2018). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the illegal sentence statute and recent decisions from the Court foreclosed Defendant's challenge to his sentence; and (2) Defendant cannot use a motion to correct an illegal sentence to argue that his sentence is unconstitutional. View "State v. Bryant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the holdings of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's convictions for, inter alia, criminal possession of a firearm, holding that the court of appeals erred in ruling that the trial judge's admitted sleeping during trial was misconduct but did not rise to the level of structural error and that the district court did not have to obtain a limited jury trial waiver before accepting Defendant's stipulation to an element of the possession charge. Defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a firearm, aggravated assault, and felony criminal discharge of a firearm. The court of appeals reversed the convictions and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial judge had committed structural error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial judge's "nodding off" during the first day of the trial did not result in the judge so abdicating and abandoning his judicial responsibilities that he was effectively absent from the courtroom, and therefore, there was no structural error; and (2) the district court erred when it accepted Defendant's elemental stipulation without first obtaining a knowing and voluntary jury trial waiver on the record. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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