Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for driving under the influence, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits the State to use evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's breath test. Before the court of appeals considered Defendant's appeal the Supreme Court published its decisions in State v. Ryce, 368 P.3d 342 (Kan. 2016) and State v. Nece, 367 P.3d 1260 (Kan. 2016). Those decisions declared Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1025's criminalization of a driver's refusal to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing to be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, a consent to submit to BAC testing after being advised that a refusal was a criminal act rendered the consent unduly coerced and invalid. In Defendant's case, the court of appeals concluded that Defendant's consent to search was invalid but affirmed on the basis that the good-faith exception applied to save the evidence from the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permitted the State to convict Defendant with unconstitutionally obtained evidence. View "State v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and related crimes but vacated in part the restitution order, holding that the district court made a legal error when it included $3,642.05 for witness and exhibit expenses in the restitution order. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court erred when it did not offer certain lesser included offense instructions on the first-degree murder charge, but the error was harmless; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant's motion for a continuance; and (3) the district court erred when it ordered Defendant to pay $3,642.05 in restitution to the Saline County Attorney's office for expenses related to witnesses and the preparation of photographic trial exhibits. View "State v. Gentry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's judgment granting the State's petition to have Robert Sigler found to be a sexually violent predator (SVP) and civilly committed under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-29a01 et seq., holding that this action was not barred by the res judicata doctrine and that the district court did not err by not declaring a mistrial. In 2013, the State unsuccessfully petitioned for Defendant's civil commitment under the SVPA. Defendant was later arrested for parole violations and returned to prison. In 2016, before Defendant's release from custody, the State filed a second petition to commit Defendant. A jury determined that Defendant was a sexually violent predator. On appeal, Defendant argued that res judicata barred the proceeding and that a witness's inaccurate statements about the first KVPA proceeding were so prejudicial as to warrant a mistrial. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because a material change of circumstances occurred that differentiated the second action from the first, this action was not barred by the res judicata doctrine; and (2) the court did not err by not declaring a mistrial. View "In re Care & Treatment of Sigler" 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 convictions of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child and vacated the portion of district court's judgment imposing postrelease supervision on Defendant's two hard twenty-five life sentences, holding sua sponte that the postrelease supervision order was illegal. Specifically, the Court held (1) harmless prosecutorial error occurred when, in the prosecutor's closing argument, he expanded the time frame in which the crime allegedly occurred; (2) the district court did not err in admitting into evidence a video of an interview of the child victim; (3) Defendant failed to preserve his pretrial objection to the admission of prior acts of sexual misconduct; (4) the district court did not err in not ordering a psychological evaluation of the child victim; (5) cumulative error did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial; but (6) the postrelease supervision order was illegal. View "State v. Ballou" 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 conviction for aggravated criminal sodomy, holding that the district court did not err in admitting testimony about the videotaped interview of the child victim and that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. During trial, the child victim testified as a witness. Later, Kasey Corbett, who conducted a forensic interview of the child, testified about the forensic interview she conducted of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a forensic interview is not expert testimony, Corbett did not give expert testimony because her testimony did not include any opinion, and the purpose of a taint hearing was accomplished in this case; and (2) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's aggravated criminal sodomy conviction. View "State v. Howling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law