Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal 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 reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for two counts of rape of a child under the age of fourteen, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that rape of a child has no mental culpability requirement so Defendant's intent was irrelevant. On appeal, Defendant argued that K.H., the alleged victim, raped her and that she continued the sexual contact because K.H. was blackmailing her and she had a mental disease or defect. The court of appeals concluded that whether K.H. forced the sexual encounter was irrelevant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that even if Defendant's rape defense was not relevant to a mental culpability requirement, it was relevant to the actus reus requirement. The Court remanded the case to the district court for a Van Cleave hearing to determine whether defense trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the State never established the voluntary act requirement. View "State v. Dinkel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated its decision reversing the lower courts' conclusions that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) did not preempt Defendant's prosecution for identity theft, holding that, in accordance with the decision of the United States Supreme Court on certiorari in this case, Defendant's prosecution was not preempted by the IRCA. A district court judge found Defendant guilty after denying his motion to dismiss charges based on representations in his W-4 employment form and I-9 form. On appeal, Defendant argued that the IRCA preempted identify theft prosecutions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that IRCA preempted Defendant's prosecution. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that state law prosecutions for identity theft were not preempted by the IRCA. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed in accordance with the decision of the United States Supreme Court. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated its decision reversing the judgment of both the court of appeals and district court concluding that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) did not preempt Defendant's prosecution for identity theft and making false information, holding that, in accordance with the decision of the United States Supreme Court on certiorari in this case, Defendant's prosecution was not preempted by the IRCA. A district court judge found Defendant guilty after denying his motion to dismiss charges based on representations in his W-4 employment form. On appeal, Defendant argued that the IRCA preempted identify theft and making false information prosecutions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that IRCA preempted Defendant's prosecutions. The United State Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that state law prosecutions for identity theft and making false information were not preempted by the IRCA. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed in accordance with the decision of the United States Supreme Court. View "State v. Morales" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for the premeditated murder of his mother, holding that the prosecutor erred in one respect during closing argument but that the erroneous comment was harmless given the overwhelming evidence against Defendant. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in admitting evidence of the victim's missing wedding ring and Defendant's possession of child pornography and charges stemming from this possession; (2) the prosecutor's statement during closing argument that the victim "could breathe just fine" crossed the line into speculation and was inflammatory, but the error was harmless in light of the trial as a whole; (3) Defendant's remaining claims of prosecutorial misconduct were without merit; and (4) the single error was insufficient to support reversal under the cumulative effect rule. View "State v. Hachmeister " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's postsentence motion to withdraw his pleas of guilty to two counts of premeditated murder, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion and did not commit reversible error. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to two premeditated murder charges for the death of his wife and the unborn child she was carrying. The district court accepted the terms of the agreement and sentenced Defendant to two concurrent hard fifty terms of life imprisonment. Defendant subsequently filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that manifest injustice warranted voiding the plea agreement. The district court denied the motion after a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not demonstrate that the district court's findings were arbitrary or unreasonable, were based on an error of law, or were based on an error of fact. View "State v. Cott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of both first-degree premeditated murder and the alternative charge of first-degree felony murder, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's request for a jury instruction on voluntary intoxication because insufficient evidence supported Defendant's voluntary intoxication defense; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting photographs of the victim's body at trial because, while the photographs may have been gruesome, they were relevant and admissible to show the manner and nature of the victim's death and to corroborate certain testimony; and (3) cumulative error did not deny Defendant a fair trial. View "State v. Morris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for first-degree felony murder, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. A jury found Defendant guilty of both first-degree felony murder and second-degree intentional murder. At sentencing, Defendant moved for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that the jury must have had reasonable doubt on the first-degree felony murder theory because it convicted him of second-degree murder for the same killing. The district court dismissed the second-degree murder conviction and sentenced Defendant for the felony murder over his objection. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it sentenced Defendant on felony murder instead of declaring a mistrial because Defendant did not establish that the jury failed to find each element of the felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the jury's first- and second-degree murder verdicts were so irreconcilable as to require a new trial; and (2) the district court did not err in declining to give an instruction on voluntary intoxication. View "State v. Craig" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, criminal possession of a firearm, fleeing and eluding, and interference with law enforcement, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal failed. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) any possible violation of Defendant's Fifth Amendment right in the admission of a witness's testimony about Defendant giving the witness phone passcodes was undoubtedly harmless; (2) the district court did not err by admitting hearsay statements as statements of a coconspirator and contemporaneous statements; (3) the State introduced sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of first-degree murder; and (4) the district judge did not abuse its discretion by admitting testimony that Defendant was upset over a meth pipe that went missing. View "State v. Lemmie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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