Kansas Supreme Court
IN THE MATTER OF LINDA S. TRIGG, DISTRICT MAGISTRATE JUDGE
NO. 118,527—APRIL 6, 2018
FACTS: The Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications received complaints regarding Judge Trigg and docketed a notice of formal proceedings. Judge Trigg did not file an answer and did not attend the hearing. At the hearing, the panel determined that Judge Trigg violated judicial canons that require independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.
DISCUSSION: Judge Trigg is no longer on the bench. But because the conduct occurred while she was still a judge, the court still has jurisdiction to review it. The court concluded that Judge Trigg violated multiple rules on Canons 1 and 2 of the Kansas Code of Judicial Conduct. Because Judge Trigg is no longer on the bench, there is no need to discuss the appropriate sanction. But the court concludes that the misconduct undermined the public's faith in the judiciary.
HEIMERMAN V. ROSE
ALLEN DISTRICT COURT—Affirmed
COURT OF APPEALS—AFFIRMED
NO. 114,890—APRIL 6, 2018
FACTS: Daniel Rose was killed in a traffic accident while acting in the course of his employment. He was survived by his wife, Pamela, and son, Lucas. Pamela filed a wrongful death action in state court and Lucas, who did not live in Kansas, filed suit in federal court. Pamela also received workers compensation benefits, which were subject to subrogation rights and a lien against any third-party recovery. The federal action was settled, with each party receiving a lump-sum payment. There was no categorization of damages in the federal settlement. After that settlement, Pamela filed a motion in the state case in which she argued that her federal recovery was for loss of consortium and loss of spousal services—recovery that would be exempt from the workers compensation subrogation and lien. The district court granted a motion to dismiss Pamela's action, finding that the federal settlement did not allow for the kind of action Pamela sought in state court because it was barred by the one-action rule. The Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, and the petition for review was granted.
ISSUE: (1) Ability of a court to categorize damages
HELD: The Kansas Workers Compensation Act prevents a windfall for a deceased worker's dependents by allowing for subrogation for payments received other than for loss of consortium or loss of spousal services. In addition, Kansas law only allows one action for the wrongful death of one person. Once the federal case was settled, the Kansas case was properly dismissed.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 44-510b, 60-1901(a); K.S.A. 44-504, -504(b), 60-1902
appeals—constitutional law—criminal law—evidence—prosecutors
state v. chandler
shawnee district court—reversed and remanded
no. 108,625—April 6, 2018
FACTS: Chandler convicted of the 2002 premeditated murders of her ex-husband (Sisco) and his girlfriend. Chandler appealed, raising in part multiple claims of prosecutorial error, and challenging the sufficiency of the evidence linking her to the murders. During the appeal, Kansas Supreme Court granted Chandler’s unopposed motion for new counsel, allowed supplemental briefing, and heard second oral arguments.
ISSUES: (1) Sufficiency of the evidence, (2) prosecutorial error and misconduct
HELD: State’s evidence in this case is examined in detail. Noting the low bar set by the standard of review and the caselaw applying it under similar facts, the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the State is sufficient for a rational factfinder to find Chandler guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
State belatedly concedes the prosecutor erred by falsely claiming Sisco got a protection from abuse (PFA) order against Chandler from the district court. Court examines the testimony about the PFA, the prosecutor’s statements, and the lack of any evidence of the PFA in the record, and explains how this error prejudiced Chandler’s due process right to a fair trial. State failed to show there was no reasonable possibility that this error contributed to the verdict. Applying distinction in State v. Sherman, 305 Kan. 88 (2016), prosecutor’s conduct in this case constituted misconduct rather than just error. Chandler’s convictions are reversed and case is remanded for further proceedings.
To avoid reoccurrence on remand, additional claims of prosecutorial error are examined.
- There was no reasonable good-faith basis for prosecutor to believe there was substantive evidence to tell jury in opening statement that Chandler drove directly up to Nebraska in returning to Denver from Topeka, and to repeat this theme in closing.
- It was error for prosecutor to tell jury in opening statement that a KBI computer analyst would testify that Chandler searched online for information about how to defend against murder charges or sentencing in murder cases.
- Prosecutor’s comments about Chandler outsmarting others were error. These comments were unsupported by the evidence, and conveyed the prosecutor’s unfounded, gratuitous belief that Chandler thought the jury was not smart enough to figure out the crime.
- Prosecutor error to expressly urge the jury to convict Chandler because Chandler “robbed her own children of their father and his fiancee.”
- Prosecutor violated the district court’s order to not refer to people in the gallery.
- Claim that prosecutor improperly commented during closing argument on Chandler’s post-arrest silence is discussed. Split of authority in federal courts is noted as to whether using a defendant’s post-arrest, pre-Miranda silence as evidence of guilt violates the right against self-incrimination when the silence is not preceded by police questioning. Kansas Supreme Court has not addressed this exact question and does not do so on the record in this case. But given the lack of foundation, prosecutor’s remark about Chandler’s silence was at best cavalier as to Chandler’s right to a fair trial.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455; K.S.A. 21-3401(a), -4635, 60-261, -455, -3101et seq.
constitutional law—criminal procedure—evidence—juries
state v. sullivan
wyandotte district court—affirmed
court of appeals—affirmed
no. 112,638—april 6, 2018
FACTS: Sullivan was convicted in consolidated trial of charges including multiple counts of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. District court granted Sullivan’s request to be absent while two law enforcement audio-recorded statements were played to jury in open court, and during sentencing while anyone was speaking on behalf of the State. DVDs containing law enforcement videos of six hours of Sullivan in the interrogation room—admitted into evidence but not played in open court—went to the jury room during their deliberations. Sullivan appealed, claiming the admission of the video-recorded statements without publication in open court violated his right to be present at all critical stages of his trial, and his right to a public trial with an impartial judge. He also claimed the district court unconstitutionally considered Sullivan’s prior convictions to enhance the sentence. Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion. Sullivan’s petition for review granted.
ISSUES: (1) Right to be present at critical stages of trial, (2) right to public trial with Judge present, (3) sentencing
HELD: Any error in district court’s handling of the DVDs was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The critical evidence for the State’s case was played to the jury, and Sullivan demonstrated both during trial and at sentencing that he would not have exercised his right to be present if the DVDs had been played in open court. Moreover, secret jury deliberations are not a critical stage of the proceeding at which a defendant is entitled to be present. The Legislature’s subsequent amendment of K.S.A. 22-3420(c) is noted.
The proceedings related to admitting the DVDs were conducted in open court; the parties were aware of their content; the detectives testified generally in open court about their content; and Sullivan had the opportunity to cross-examine the detectives. Sullivan got the public trial to which he was entitled, and he had no right for the judge to be present during jury deliberations.
Sullivan’s sentencing claim is defeated by State v. Ivory, 273 Kan. 44 (2002).
STATUTES: K.S.A. 22-3405(1), -3420(c)
Kansas Court of Appeals
OPEN RECORDS—STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION
BAKER V. HAYDEN
JOHNSON DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED
NO. 117,989 – APRIL 6, 2018
FACTS: The Johnson County Sheriff's Department served a PFA at Baker's residence for his adult daughter. After that occurred, Baker submitted an open records request to the Johnson County District Court asking to inspect and copy audio files from two open court hearings that occurred in the PFA case. Baker was neither a party to nor counsel to a party in the PFA. Baker was told on multiple occasions that he was entitled to request the transcripts from the hearings but that the actual audio files were exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act. The district court granted the county's motion to dismiss on grounds that Baker was not entitled to the audio recordings, and Baker appealed.
ISSUES: (1) Mootness; (2) validity of Baker's claim; (3) attorney fees
HELD: Baker was ultimately given the audio recordings before this case was heard on appeal. But this case is one that is capable of repetition and which involves an issue of public importance. There is a public interest in answering the question of whether the audio recordings were exempt from KORA disclosure. The district court misinterpreted the meaning of Supreme Court Rule 362. There is nothing in the plain language of the rule which bars access to electronically recorded hearings of open court proceedings. And there is no provision of KORA which bars release of the requested audio files. Because there is no evidence of any bad faith action, Baker is not entitled to attorney fees.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 45-219(a), -221(a), -221(a)(1), -221(a)(20), -222(d); K.S.A. 20-101, 45-218(a)
criminal law—criminal procedure—jury instructions
state v. robinson
pawnee district court—affirmed
no. 116,763—april 6, 2018
FACTS: Robinson charged and convicted of aggravated burglary. He filed an unsuccessful pretrial motion to dismiss the case, claiming selective prosecution because the charge against the other man in the burglary was reduced to criminal trespass. Robinson appealed on the selective-prosecution claim and argued the instructions given to the jury did not allow sufficient consideration of his selective-prosecution defense. Robinson also claimed insufficient evidence supported the conviction.
ISSUES: (1) Selective-prosecution claim, (2) jury instructions, (3) sufficiency of the evidence
HELD: Robinson failed to show the State singled him out based on some arbitrary or invidious criteria. Under facts in case, district court fairly assessed the victim’s testimony as focused on Robinson as the primary actor, and it was undisputed that the criminal records of the two men were substantially different.
The selective-prosecution defense is a question to be decided by the judge on a pretrial motion. It is not a defense that should have been presented to the jury. Any error in the instructions in this case had no impact on the jury’s consideration of Robinson’s actual guilt or innocence.
State presented enough evidence for jury to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Robinson entered the home intending to commit a theft.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3208(3), 60-261; K.S.A. 22-3208(3)