Kansas Supreme Court
BULLOCK V. BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY
WYANDOTTE DISTRICT COURT— COURT IS APPEALS IS AFFIRMED—DISTRICT COURT IS REVERSED—CASE REMANDED
NO. 111,599—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: While working for BNSF, Bullock slipped and was injured after stepping in diesel fuel. It was later determined that the fuel was spilled by one of Bullock's co-workers. Bullock sued BNSF and BNSF claimed the affirmative defense that Bullock was contributorily negligent for failing to appreciate the danger posed by the diesel fuel. Evidence at trial showed that Bullock was not disciplined for his conduct but that the employee who caused the spill was disciplined. The jury found BNSF 100 percent at fault. After BNSF appealed, the Court of Appeals found that evidence of the other employee's discipline was a subsequent remedial measure barred by K.S.A. 60-451, and that court ordered the matter remanded for a new trial. Bullock's petition for review was granted.
ISSUES: (1) Use of post-accident employee discipline as evidence; (2) counsel's statements during closing argument
HELD: The post-accident discipline of another employee constitutes a subsequent remedial measure and is barred from introduction by K.S.A. 60-451. This is true even if a party attempts to use evidence of subsequent remedial measures to prove causation or defeat a claim of contributory negligence. But evidence of an employer's post-event investigation is admissible under that same statute. A jury should not be instructed to act on their feelings about what is fair or to be concerned with community standards or community conscience. Counsel's remarks during closing argument were inappropriate.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 60-451, 3701(d)(1)
CONFRONTATION CLAUSE—EVIDENCE—FINDINGS OF FACT
STATE V. JONES
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 113,409—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: Jones and a co-defendant were convicted of killing a man by injecting him with a lethal amount of methamphetamine. Jones appealed two issues to the Kansas Supreme Court.
ISUES: (1) Admission of forensic test results; (2) admission of out-of-court statements
HELD: The lab's chief toxicologist interpreted data to determine that there were high levels of methamphetamine present in the decedent's blood. From that information, the coroner determined that the victim died from methamphetamine toxicity. The coroner testified at trial about the toxicology results and what they meant, and the toxicologist testified about the results of the laboratory tests. Even if the person who actually performed the testing did not testify, any error stemming from that fact is harmless. The issue of whether evidence was properly admitted under the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule was not preserved for appeal.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-460, -460(i)(2)
STATE V. MEREDITH
RILEY DISTRICT COURT—COURT OF APPEALS IS AFFIRMED—DISTRICT COURT IS AFFIRMED
NO. 110,520—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: Meredith pled no contest to a drug crime in 2009. At the time he committed the offense, the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) required Meredith to register as an offender for 10 years. But mistakes in both the sentencing procedure and the journal entry made it unclear how long Meredith's registration period was to run. After Meredith's probation was revoked, the district court noted that the current statute required a 15-year registration period and that sentence was imposed. Meredith appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that KORA does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. Meredith's petition for review was granted.
ISSUE: Retroactive application of KORA
HELD: The legislature intended KORA to be a non-punitive civil regulatory scheme for all offenders. The record on appeal does not show any evidence that registration is punitive for drug offenders. Since the registration requirement is not a punishment, it cannot be an Ex Post Facto violation.
DISSENT: (Beier, J., joined by Rosen and Johnson, JJ.) KORA constitutes punishment even if that was not the legislature's intent.
STATUTES: United States Constitution Article I, § 10; K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 22-4906(a); K.S.A. 2008 Supp. 65-4161(a)
STATE V. REED
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—COURT OF APPEALS IS AFFIRMED, DISTRICT COURT IS AFFIRMED
NO. 110,277—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: Reed was convicted of a sex crime and, as a result, was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Reed stipulated that for a period of time during that 10 years, he did not comply with registration requirements. Before Reed's registration period expired, the legislature amended the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) and added a tolling period for periods of registrant noncompliance or incarceration. When he was convicted for registration violations, Reed claimed that he could not be convicted because his registration period had expired prior to being charged. After his conviction, Reed appealed, claiming that the tolling provision added by the legislature could not be applied to him without violating the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, finding that the amendments to KORA were not punitive. Reed's petition for review was granted.
ISSUE: Retroactive application of KORA amendments
HELD: The court has jurisdiction to hear this statutory argument even though it was not raised below. Registration under KORA for sex offenders is not punishment, so retroactive application of any provision cannot violate the Ex Post Facto Clause.
DISSENT: (Johnson, J., joined by Beier and Rosen, JJ.) KORA is punitive in effect rendering this an Ex Post Facto Violation.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 22-3210(d)(2), -3210(e)(2); K.S.A. 1994 Supp. 22-4902(b)(3), -4906(a); K.S.A. 22-4906(a)
EVIDENCE—JURY INSTRUCTIONS—PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT
STATE V. SEAN
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 114,417—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: Sean was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and other serious felonies after he allegedly killed a man by injecting him with a lethal amount of methamphetamine. Most of the state's evidence was provided by codefendants. Sean appealed.
ISSUES: (1) Suppression of interrogation statements; (2) prosecutorial misconduct; (3) erroneous admission of bad acts evidence; (4) erroneous admission of hearsay statements; (5) motion for mistrial; (6) limitation on cross-examination; (7) improper sympathy evidence; (8) cumulative error
HELD: The court cannot and will not reach the merits of Sean's argument about his custodial statements because his attorney did not properly preserve this issue for appeal. The introduction of evidence about drugs did not violate the order in limine. Comments about Sean's retention of an attorney were beyond the latitude afforded to prosecutors, but the error was not so prejudicial as to require reversal. The prosecutor's comment on a witness' testimony was a fair comment on facts in evidence and not inappropriate commentary on that witness' credibility. The issue of prior bad acts evidence is not properly before the court due to the lack of a contemporaneous objection. Several of the statements about which Sean now complains are not hearsay. The other statements might have been hearsay, but their admission was harmless. Testimony about gang affiliation was a passing comment by a witness and not a deliberate violation of a pretrial order. And while that testimony was a fundamental failure of the proceedings, the district court did not abuse its discretion by deciding that any resulting prejudice could be mitigated. The subject matter that was excluded during cross-examination offered no substantive or exculpatory evidence and was consequently not wrongly excluded. The court will not review any claim of error regarding testimony of the victim's mother because the issue was not preserved for appeal by a contemporaneous objection. Sean was not prejudiced by cumulative error.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-261, -455, -460, -460(j); K.S.A. 22-3423(1)(c), 60-404, -2105
Kansas Court of Appeals
MAINLAND INVESTMENT GROUP V. DIVERSICARE
LYON DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED AND VACATED
NO. 116,921—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: Mainland filed a petition against Tonya Smith after she allegedly wrote a bad check. Smith did not respond to the petition and Mainland received a default judgment. Mainland tried to collect on that judgment for 10 years but was apparently unable to locate Smith. After finally tracking her down, Mainland received an order of garnishment and served Diversicare, who Mainland believed was Smith's employer. Diversicare did not answer the order of garnishment and Mainland sought judgment against Diversicare for lack of compliance. At this point Diversicare sought permission to file an out-of-time answer, claiming that it never received the original garnishment order and that it had never employed Smith. The district court ultimately denied this motion and ordered Diversicare to pay the judgment plus costs.
ISSUE: Ability to garnish
HELD: Diversicare failed to answer the order of garnishment, but it is undisputed that Mainland released Diversicare from the order of garnishment. In the absence of any garnishment order there is nothing upon which to enter default judgment against Diversicare, and the district court erred by entering judgment against Diversicare.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 61-3003(g), -3504(a), -3504(b), -3507, -3507(a), -3507(b), -3508, -3510; K.S.A. 61-3502, -3514
IN RE D.H., JR.
MEADE DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED IN PART, REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS
NO. 116,422—AUGUST 4, 2017
FACTS: D.H., Jr. caught the attention of state officials shortly after his birth, when it was suggested that Mother used methamphetamine during her pregnancy. As the child's life progressed, there was a series of contacts with the police over drug use and domestic violence, and the family had no stability in housing or employment. D.J., Jr. finally came in to custody after both parents were incarcerated. After their parental rights were terminated, both parents appealed.
ISSUES: (1) Sufficient evidence to terminate father's rights; (2) sufficient evidence to terminate mother's rights; (3) ineffective assistance of counsel; (4) compliance with ICWA requirements
HELD: Father did not make sufficient efforts to regain custody of his child. His continued positive drug tests were a primary cause of this. There was sufficient evidence that Father's rights should have been terminated. Mother was similarly situated. She had a long history of drug abuse and instability. In addition, mother was subject to statutory presumptions of unfitness. Mother's first attorney has been disbarred, and the record shows that his representation of mother fell below minimum standards. But that representation came early in the case, and the two other lawyers who were appointed for mother ably represented her. Providing information to a tribe is mandatory under ICWA. When the tribe requested more information the state had an obligation to provide it. The case must be remanded so that an attempt can be made to provide missing information to the tribe.
STATUTES: 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4); K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 38-2269(a), -2269(b), -2269(c), -2269(f), -2269(g)(1), -2271(a)(1), -2271(a)(3), -2271(b)