Kansas Supreme Court
state v. cott
johnson district court—affirmed
no. 120,075—may 29, 2020
FACTS: Cott was convicted on guilty plea to two counts of premeditated murder. Hard 50 sentence imposed. Nine months later, he filed pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing in part the alleged lack of help from defense counsel, and the coercive effect of Cott’s mother urging him to enter into plea agreement to avoid death penalty, left him feeling he had no choice. He further claimed that no one explained that hard 50 sentence would not be eligible for good time credit. District court made specific findings in holding that manifest injustice did not warrant voiding the plea agreement. Cott appealed.
ISSUE: Post-sentencing motion to withdraw plea
HELD: District court did not abuse its discretion by denying Cott’s motion to withdraw plea. Cott failed to demonstrate his mother’s pressure deprived him of the ability to make his own decisions. He also failed to demonstrate that district court’s findings were arbitrary or unreasonable, or based on any error of law or fact.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5419(c), 22-3210, -3210(d)(2); K.S.A. 21-4636
Kansas Court of Appeals
appeals—appellate procedure—constitutional law—criminal law—evidence—motions—statutes
state v. contreras
scott district court—reversed and remanded
no. 119,584—may 29, 2020
FACTS: Contreras charged with rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and aggravated intimidation of a child (“K.B.”). Defense called K.B.’s father (“Father”) to describe Father’s encounter with K.B. in December 2012. Father, who had been convicted of sodomy on plea agreement for acts between April 2011 and March 2012, said he wanted to invoke Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not testify. District court determined Father’s prior criminal conviction concerning K.B. did not extend to events occurring in December 2012, allowed Father to invoke Fifth Amendment, and excused him from the trial. Jury convicted Contreras on the charged crimes. He appealed, claiming in part the district court denied him a fair trial by allowing a witness who could have bolstered Contreras’ credibility to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. State asserted the Fifth Amendment issue was not preserved for appellate review because Contreras failed to object to district court’s decision to allow invocation of Fifth Amendment and excusal of Father from trial, and argued the doctrines of acquiescence or judicial estoppel should be applied.
ISSUES: (1) Appeal—procedural barriers; (2) Constitutional right to present a defense
HELD: There is no procedural bar to consideration of Contreras’ Fifth Amendment claim. The contemporaneous objection requirement in K.S.A. 60-404 to admission of evidence does not apply to the question of law whether a witness has a right to assert Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Even if rule would generally apply, purpose of the rule was met by parties’ presentation of the issue to district court for its resolution. State abandoned its argument that Contreras had to object when district court excused Father from trial. District court’s Fifth Amendment ruling is not a judgment to which the doctrine of acquiescence applies. And doctrine of judicial estoppel does not bar Contreras’ claim.
District court’s Fifth Amendment determination was made without benefit of essential documents that would have informed its decision as to whether Father’s conviction included the December 2012 timeframe. Panel granted Contreras’ motion on appeal to take judicial notice of additional documents relevant to Father’s prior conviction, and those documents support Contreras’ claim that Father did not have a privilege against self-incrimination for the December 2012 incident with K.B. District court erred in failing to compel his testimony. That error was not harmless in this case where district court found Father’s testimony was material, relevant and admissible, and Father’s testimony was crucial to support Contreras’ credibility. All convictions are reversed and case is remanded for a new trial.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5501(b), -5504(b)(1), 22-3415(b)(1); K.S.A. 60-404, -405, -425, -407, -409, -412(c)