Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision affirming the district court's summary denial of Defendant's motion to correct an allegedly illegal sentence but reversed its erroneous holding that it could not consider the legality of Defendant's other four prior Illinois convictions, holding that an appellate court has the authority to consider an illegal sentence issue raised for the first time on appeal. Before the district court, Defendant argued that five of his prior Illinois convictions were improperly classified as person felonies in his Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act criminal history calculation. The court of appeals rejected Defendant's challenge to the classification of one of his prior convictions but refused to consider the legality of the other four convictions on the grounds that those challenges were made for the first time on appeal. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals (1) properly concluded that one of Defendant's prior convictions was properly scored as a person felony; but (2) erred when it declined to consider the legality of Defendant's sentence from the perspective of the classification of all five prior Illinois convictions. View "State v. Sartin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's sentence in each of three docketed cases in this appeal and remanded each for resentencing, holding that the sentencing court erred in classifying two Arkansas misdemeanors as person offenses when determining Defendant's criminal history score after he pleaded guilty to three counts of felony theft and one count of attempted aggravated burglary. The court of appeals held that Defendant's Arkansas false imprisonment conviction was properly scored as a person crime but vacated the sentences because the record was unclear what statute or subsection Defendant's Arkansas battery offense arose under. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) there is no comparable Kansas person crime to the Arkansas false imprisonment conviction, and therefore, the lower courts erred when concluding that the Arkansas offense should be classified as a person crime; and (2) insufficient evidence supported the person-crime classification for the Arkansas battery conviction because the record did not reflect which statutory provision Defendant was convicted under. Therefore, remand was required for the district court to conduct further proceedings before classifying the Arkansas battery conviction. View "State v. Ewing" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's classification of Defendant's prior Washington state residential burglary conviction as a person felony, holding that the Washington offense's intent element was broader than that required to commit a Kansas person crime. Defendant pleaded guilty to two drug-related felony convictions that occurred in 2014. In 2016, the district court held a sentencing hearing. The court calculated a criminal history score of B, based in part on classifying as a person felony a 2003 Washington conviction for residential burglary. After Defendant was sentenced he appealed, arguing that the sentencing court erred in classifying his Washington residential burglary conviction as a person felony because the Washington statute was broader than the Kansas burglary statute. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's prior residential burglary must be scored as a nonperson felony under Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6811(e)(3). View "State v. Saucedo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's two criminal threat convictions and his domestic battery conviction and reversing Defendant's aggravated assault conviction, holding that, although the Court's reasoning differed from the court of appeals on Defendant's Brady claim, the court of appeals reached the right result. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was entitled to a new trial because the prosecutor had not timely disclosed a disciplinary report of a deputy sheriff involved in the incident. The court of appeals rejected Defendant's Brady argument in part because the prosecutor had not "suppressed" the report. The Supreme Court held (1) although the court of appeals' reasoning was infirm the court properly rejected Defendant's Brady claim because there was no reasonable probability that Defendant would not have been convicted if the report had been produced to the defense earlier; (2) there was no double jeopardy or multiplicity problem regarding Defendant's two convictions of criminal threat; (3) the prosecutor made an improper statement during closing argument, but the error did not contribute to the verdict; and (4) the district judge did not err by refusing to recall the jury or by denying Defendant's related motion for a new trial. View "State v. Hirsh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the district court suppressing evidence obtained after police officers unconstitutionally detained Defendant, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the attenuation doctrine under the facts of this case. In suppressing evidence obtained in a search of Defendant the district court concluded that police officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant. The court of appeals agreed but determined that the attenuation doctrine applied. Specifically, the court concluded that the officers' discovery of a preexisting arrest warrant after they seized and search Defendant attenuated the taint of the unconstitutional seizure. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officers' duty to execute the arrest warrant did not attenuate the taint of the unlawful seizure. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court suppressing derived from a search because it found that the search resulted directly from a police officer's unconstitutional seizure of Defendant, holding that this case must be remanded to the district court for further findings of fact. Applying the attenuation doctrine factors set forth by the United States Supreme Court, the district court suppressed the evidence at issue. The court of appeals reversed the district court's ultimate decision, finding that an intervening circumstance attenuated the taint of the unlawful seizure and thus did not invalidate the later search. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred in failing to consider the officer's discovery of an arrest warrant as a circumstance that intervened between the officer's illegal detention of Defendant and his search of her purse after arresting her; and (2) because there remained unanswered questions of fact, the case is remanded for the district court to make the appropriate findings of fact under the correct legal standard. View "State v. Tatro" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court rejecting Defendant's claim that he was entitled to a new trial without holding a hearing on the merits of his claim pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), holding that the district court abused its discretion by denying Defendant's motion on the grounds that he was not legally authorized to hear the merits of the Brady claim. In his motion, Defendant alleged that important information undermining the testimony of the State's star trial witness came to light for the first time while the case was on remand to the district court for resentencing. The trial court denied the motion without a hearing, concluding that the request for relief based on the Brady claim fell outside the statutory time limit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Kansas' mandate rule did not deprive the district court of subject matter jurisdiction to address the merits of Defendant's claims; and (2) there was no final judgment under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3501(1) in this case, and therefore, the district judge failed to recognize that he was legally authorized to hear the merits of the Brady claim. View "State v. Soto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions and sentences, holding that a police officer's discovery of an expired tag on Defendant's vehicle did not present an intervening circumstance that attenuated the taint of the officer's unconstitutional seizure of Defendant. Defendant was unconstitutionally detained by a police officer. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that officers obtained incriminating evidence as the result of an unlawful seizure. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, finding that Defendant's initial seizure was unsupported by reasonable suspicion but that the United States Supreme Court's attenuation doctrine analysis in Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. __ (2016), applied to allow the admission of the evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no attenuation of the taint of the illegal seizure, and therefore, the district court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Christian" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and felony abuse of a child, holding that none of Defendant's claims of error warranted reversal of his convictions. Specifically, the Court held (1) a comment made by the prosecutor during closing argument was a misstatement that did not effectively shift the burden of proof, and there was no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the verdict; (2) any error in failing to offer a lesser concluded offense instruction on unintentional but reckless second-degree murder was harmless; (3) the district court did not err in admitting two recorded jail calls between Defendant and his mother into evidence; and (4) Defendant's pro se arguments were insufficiently preserved for appellate review. View "Stewart v. Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it, holding that the State provided sufficient evidence to support the conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction because a mistake of fact existed, namely, that Defendant believed the packet she sold contained lawful incense, not a controlled substance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State was required to prove that Defendant had knowledge of the nature of the controlled substance she possessed; and (2) the State proved through circumstantial evidence that Defendant knowingly possessed a controlled substance. View "State v. Rizal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law