Kansas Supreme Court
state v. collins
sedgwick district court—reversed and remanded; court of appeals—affirmed
no. 117,743—April 24, 2020
FACTS: Wielding a knife in an altercation with three unarmed women, Collins killed one and injured a second. Collins filed motion to dismiss the complaint, claiming self-defense immunity. District court granted the motion and dismissed charges of second-degree murder and reckless aggravated battery, ruling Collins had reasonable grounds to believe he was in danger of great bodily harm. Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings. 56 Kan. App. 2d 140 (2018). Collins’ petition for review granted. Review also granted on State’s conditional cross-petition for review of panel’s failure to decide whether State met its probable cause burden to demonstrate Collins was the aggressor at the time of the fatal stabbing and initially provoked the use of force. Review granted on Collins’ petition and State’s conditional cross-petition.
ISSUE: Self-defense immunity
HELD: Collins is not entitled to self-defense immunity from prosecution. Relevant statutes examined—K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5231 (self-defense immunity statute and State’s burden to show probable cause the defendant’s use of force was not statutorily justified), K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5222 (statutory justification for use of force), and K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5226 (grounds making self-defense justification unavailable). Another case examining these statutes, State v. Thomas, 311 Kan. __ (this day decided), is cited. On facts found by district court, there is probable cause to believe Collins’ use of force was not statutorily justified. The escalating sequences of events comprising the deadly encounter are broken down into four discrete uses of force and examined. The initial aggressor statute, K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5226, operates conclusively to deny Collins’ immunity motion and district court is reversed on that basis. District relied on its accurate finding of no evidence that Collins was escaping from a felony, but failed to consider other disqualifying conduct in 21-5226(a)—that Collins was attempting to commit, or committing a forcible felony. State supplied probable cause to believe Collins’ killing and wounding of the victims were not justifiable acts of self-defense under the Kansas statutory scheme. State’s prosecution of Collins should have been permitted to continue.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5111(n), -5221, -5221(a)(1)(A), -5222, -5222(b), -5226, -5226(a), -5226(b), -5226(c), -5226(c)(1), -5226(c)(2), -5231, -5231(a) -5231(c), -5403(a)(1), -5412(a); K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5413(b)(2)(B)
state v. espinoza
wyandotte district court—affirmed
no. 118,737—april 24, 2020
FACTS: Espinoza pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder. In pre-sentence motion he sought a durational departure claiming the mandated hard-25 sentence was unconstitutional as applied. He argued the three-pronged proportionality test in State v. Freeman 223 Kan. 362 (1978), required district court to assess specific facts of his case to determine constitutionality of his sentence under § 9 of Kansas Constitutional Bill of Rights, and listed facts he believed weighed in favor of granting a durational departure. District court denied the challenge. Espinosa challenged that decision on direct appeal, arguing the district court failed to make such findings, and seeking remand to develop the necessary factual record.
ISSUE: Appellate review of constitutional claim
HELD: It is a defendant’s responsibility to ensure the district court makes the factual findings necessary for appellate review, and this responsibility goes beyond merely raising a constitutional claim. Here, Espinoza did not object to district court’s failure to make factual findings at sentence, and he did not file a motion under Kansas Supreme Court Rule 165. Espinoza’s as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of his hard-25 sentence is not amenable to appellate review.
state v. Thomas
barton district court—reversed and remanded; court of appeals—affirmed
no. 116,111—April 24, 2020
FACTS: State charged Thomas with first-degree murder for shooting and killing an unarmed man outside that man’s residence. Thomas filed pretrial motion to dismiss based on self-defense immunity under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5231. State argued Thomas did not qualify for statutory immunity because his use of deadly force was not justified under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 5222, and because Thomas was the initial aggressor under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5226. Making no distinct factual findings, district court dismissed the complaint, cited the investigating officer’s testimony that Thomas was justified in drawing his weapon, and held the State did not meet its burden to show probable cause the self-defense immunity did not apply. State appealed. Court of Appeals reversed in unpublished opinion, finding the district court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law, and remanded case for another evidentiary hearing in compliance with Supreme Court Rule 165. Thomas’ petition for review granted.
ISSUE: Self-defense immunity
HELD: Panel’s judgment is affirmed. District court’s role in deciding complex immunity claims before trial is discussed, and relevant statutes are examined - K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5231 (self -defense immunity statute and State’s burden to show probable cause the defendant’s use of force was not statutorily justified), K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5222 (statutory justification for use of force), and K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5226 (grounds making self-defense justification unavailable). Another case examining these statutes, State v. Collins, 311 Kan. __ (this day decided), is cited. Under State v. Hardy, 305 Kan. 1001 (2017), district court’s fleeting explanation of its conclusions in this case, without first adequately addressing contradictory testimony, was error and specific examples are identified. Also, Thomas did not directly challenge the panel’s additional direction that a new evidentiary hearing is necessary before making the required findings of fact and conclusions of law. District court’s judgment is reversed and case is remanded with directions.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5221(a), -5221(a)(1)(B), -5221(a)(2), -5222, -5222(b), -5226, -5226(b), -5226(c), -5231, -5402(a)(1)