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July 21, 2020 Digests

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 24, 2020

Kansas Supreme Court

criminal

constitutional law—criminal procedure—evidence—jury instructions
state v. green
Montgomery District Court—affirmed
no. 118,366—August 21, 2020

FACTS: For offenses related to the killing of Green’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, a jury convicted Green of first-degree premeditated murder, aggravated burglary, and arson. On appeal he claimed: (1) district judge should have instructed jury on defense of voluntary intoxication; (2) district judge should instructed jury on lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter; (3) district judge’s failure to give those two instructions deprived Green of his constitutional right to a jury trial; (4) the failure to instruct on voluntary manslaughter pushed jury to convict on first-degree premeditated murder even if jurors had reasonable doubt that State had proved its case; (5) district judge erred in admitting into evidence a videotaped interrogation of Green because officers repeatedly challenged his honesty and truthfulness during that interrogation; (6) district judge erred in refusing to give cautionary instruction about testimony from jailhouse informants; and (7) cumulative error denied him a fair trial.

ISSUES: (1) Jury instruction—voluntary intoxication; (2) jury instruction—voluntary manslaughter; (3) right to a jury trial; (4) constitutional right to due process; (5) evidence—videotaped statements; (6) cautionary instruction on informant testimony; (7) cumulative error

HELD: Under facts in case, an instruction on voluntary intoxication was not factually appropriate. No evidence of impairment that would prevent the formation of the necessary criminal intent. Instead, Green relies on evidence of his intoxication before and after the crime.

            District judge correctly denied Green’s request for a voluntary manslaughter instruction. No evidence that the sleeping victim did anything as Green entered his house that could be characterized as provocation.

            District judge’s failure to instruct jury on voluntary intoxication and voluntary manslaughter did not violate Green’s constitutional claim of being denied right to a jury trial where no evidence supported Green’s requests for those instructions.

            Green’s argument for extending Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625 (1980), to noncapital cases is rejected. Under facts in case, no error under Beck’s letter or its spirit.

            Green’s challenge to the admission of videotaped statements he made during police interview, raised for the first time on appeal, is not considered. Even if error to not redact the interviewers’ comments on credibility, the error would be far from dispositive. Court finds no established exception to the preservation problem, and notes this case is a poster child for adherence to the contemporaneous rule.

            District judge did not err in denying Green’s request for a cautionary instruction on informant testimony. Neither jailhouse informant was acting as an agent for the State when the informant first received incriminating information from Green, and multiple witnesses and other evidence corroborated each informant’s testimony.

            Cumulative error doctrine not applicable where there is no error or only a single error.

CONCURRENCE (Rosen, J.)(joined by Stegall, J.): Agrees that a voluntary intoxication instruction was not factually appropriate because there was no evidence indicating Green was impaired at the time of the crime. Disagrees with that portion of majority’s decision to the extent it implies the presence of any evidence, however slight, mandates the district court to instruct and skip the gatekeeping test required in the affirmative defense statute

STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5108(c), 60-261; K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5205(b), -5404(a)(1); K.S.A. 60-404, -455, -1507

constitutional law—criminal law—criminal procedure—
evidence—prosecutors—statutes
state v. moore
reno district court—affirmed
no. 121,040—august 21, 2020

FACTS: Moore was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. The trial judge allowed State to introduce incriminating statements Moore made during police interview, finding Moore made no unequivocal request for counsel. Trial judge also denied Moore’s request for voluntary intoxication instructions on first-degree premeditated murder and lesser-included crime of intentional second-degree murder. On appeal Moore claimed: (1) district judge should have suppressed evidence of his incriminating statements; (2) it was error to refuse to give voluntary intoxication instructions; (3) prosecutor committed error in closing argument; and (4) cumulative error denied him a fair trial.

ISSUES: (1) Motion to suppress; (2) voluntary intoxication jury instruction; (3) prosecutorial error; (4) cumulative error

HELD: District judge did not err in denying the motion to suppress. Moore’s statement that “Well, I guess it’s lawyer time now then,” considered as a whole and in context, is ambiguous. And his statement ten minutes later that he was “done, all right,” followed by continued talking on his part did not transform his earlier statement into an unambiguous invocation of right to counsel.

            District judge did not err in denying voluntary intoxication instructions. Even assuming such an instruction was legally appropriate, it was not factually appropriate where there was no evidence of impairment negatively affecting Moore’s ability to form the requisite intent.

            No error found in prosecutor’s closing argument by stating that premeditation can be seen from Moore standing there and pulling the trigger over and over again, and by decrying the American tradition of criticizing the police. These statements did not make an equivalent to the forbidden argument that premeditation can be formed instantaneously, and did not appeal to jurors’ passions or prejudices. Prosecutor’s rebuttal statement that Moore may have been eliminating his competition was error because this unsupported speculation on Moore’s motive  argued facts not in evidence. In light of overwhelming evidence against Moore, however, this error was harmless.

            Cumulative error doctrine not applicable where only a single instance of a harmless prosecutorial error found.

CONCURRENCE (Rosen, J.)(joined by Stegall, J.): Agrees that a voluntary intoxication instruction was not factually appropriate because there was no evidence indicating Moore was impaired at the time of the crime. Disagrees with that portion of majority’s discussion on the issue to the extent it relies on State v. Green, __ Kan. __ (this day decided), that finds the presence of any evidence, however slight, mandates the district court to instruct and skip the gatekeeping test required in the affirmative defense statute

STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5108(c), -5205(b)

appeals—constitutional law—criminal law—
criminal procedure—jury instructions—statutes
state v. pattillo
shawnee district court—affirmed
no. 118,941—august 21, 2020

FACTS: Pattillo drove the van in which an occupant fired shots, killing Miller and hitting the residence which was occupied by Miller’s seven-year-old nephew. Jury convicted Pattillo of felony murder, aggravated assault for threatening Miller with a gun, felony discharge of a firearm, and aggravated endangering of a child. On appeal, Pattillo challenged whether the underlying felonies supported the felony-murder conviction, and whether sufficient evidence supported the convictions. He also claimed his convictions for discharge of a firearm and felony murder violated both the Double Jeopardy clause and K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5109(b), and claimed the trial judge erred in instructing the jury.

ISSUES: (1) Underlying felonies—merger doctrine; (2) underlying felonies—sufficiency of the evidence; (3) underlying felonies—multiplicity; (4) multiple convictions and punishments; (5) jury instructions

HELD: Merger doctrine applies to Patillo’s aggravated assault conviction, and under facts in case, the aggravated assault merged with the homicide. If this were the only underlying felony, the felony-murder conviction would be reversed.

            Pursuant to K.S.A. 2019 Sup. 21-5402(c)(1), merger doctrine does not apply to Pattillo’s convictions for aggravated endangering a child and discharge of a firearm at a dwelling, but under facts in case, sufficient evidence supports both underlying felonies. Sufficient circumstantial evidence that Pattillo was aware of the risk to the seven-year-old who lived in the dwelling and consciously disregarded that risk. Statutes for child endangerment and aggravated child endangerment are compared to reject Pattillo’s argument that State was required to prove he knew a child was in the house at the time of the shooting. No language in K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5601(b)(1) or the definition of reckless conduct requires that a person endangering a child must know a child is in danger. State v. Herndon, 52 Kan.App.2d 857 (2016), rev. denied 306 Kan. 1324 (2017), is factually distinguished. Sufficient evidence also supports Pattillo’s conviction for criminal discharge of a firearm at a dwelling, and Miller’s death occurred during the res gestae of the acts of discharging a weapon at a dwelling and of endangering a child.

            Cumulative punishments for both criminal discharge of a firearm and felony murder violate neither the Double Jeopardy Clause nor K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5109. Same elements test in State v. Schoonover, 281 Kan. 453 (2006), is not employed where the legislature has expressed its intent to allow cumulative punishments for felony murder and those underlying felonies that do not merge with the homicide, such as discharge of a firearm at a dwelling. Pattillo can be sentenced for both felony murder and the enhanced punishment for discharging a firearm resulting in great bodily harm.

            No merit to Pattillo’s jury instruction claims. Invited-error doctrine precludes review of Patillo’s claims regarding the felony-murder jury instruction and the criminal discharge instruction. And Pattillo failed to show clear error in district judge’s failure to instruct jury on the lesser-included offenses of criminal discharge or of endangering a child.

STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5109, -5109(b), -5109(b)(1), -5109(b)(2) -5202(j), -5402(a)(2), -5402(c), -5402(c)(1)(S),  -5402(c)(2), -5402(c)(2)(D), -5601(a), -5601(b)(1), -5601(c)(1), -6308, -6308(a)(1)(A), -6308(a)(3)(B), -6308(b), -6308(b)(1)(A), -6308(b)(1)(B), 22-3414(3)

K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5402(c)(1)(O), -5402(c)(1)(S) -5601(b)(1). -6308(a)(1)(A)

 

Kansas Court of Appeals

CRIMINAL

EVIDENCE—JOINDER—PRIOR CRIMES
STATE V. BROWN
SALINE DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED AND REMANDED
NO. 119,460—AUGUST 21, 2020

FACTS: In 2015 Brown was charged with three counts of rape and one count of aggravated indecent liberties for crimes involving his stepdaughter, K.N. While he was in custody, Brown wrote both K.N. and A.N., the victim's mother and his long-time companion. The contents of the letters caused the State to charge him with one count each of intimidation of a victim and a witness. Over Brown's objections, the information was consolidated for one trial. After a jury trial, Brown was convicted of all charges except for intimidation of a victim. He appealed.

ISSUES: (1) Admission in evidence of prior acts of domestic violence; (2) consolidation of information for one trial; (3) denials of motions for mistrial

HELD: At trial, the district court admitted evidence that Brown significantly damaged property at the home during arguments with A.N. The evidence was ostensibly admitted to prove why K.N. would be fearful to disclose the sexual abuse, even though the evidence showed that K.N. did not witness these events. There was extensive testimony at trial about these domestic violence events. Although the prior-crimes evidence was relevant and material, its probative value was diminished given the lengthy timelines over which the abuse occurred and the undisputed fact that K.N. did not witness the behavior. And the State never asked K.N. at trial if her failure to report was due, at least in part, to Brown's violent tendencies. The exhaustive testimony about Brown's prior crimes, the diminished probative value of the evidence, and the fact that the State could have proven the same thing with less prejudicial evidence, results in the conclusion that the district court erred by admitting the evidence. This error cannot be considered harmless and the case must be remanded for a new trial. It is undisputed that the State established the legal requirements to consolidate all charges. The letters to A.N. and K.N. put Brown's character into dispute that prejudiced him with the jury, all for little probative value. The district court erred by consolidating these cases for trial. There is no need to review errors in the district court's rulings on Brown's motions for mistrial. This case has already been reversed for two new trials.

STATUTE: K.S.A. 22-3202, -3303, 60-447(b), -455, -455(a), -455(b),

Tags:  appeals  constitutional law  criminal law  criminal procedure  evidence  joinder  jury instructions  prior crimes  prosecutors  statutes 

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