Kansas Supreme Court
criminal law—criminal procedure—jury instructions—statutes
state v. blansett
sumner district court—affirmed
no. 115,634—march 8, 2019
FACTS: Blansett convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault in stabbing son to death while she was in a psychotic episode. She appealed, claiming error in the jury instructions and arguing premeditation is a culpable mental state that can be negated by mental disease or defect defense. She also alleged prosecutorial error, and claimed cumulative error denied her a fair trial. Supplemental briefing ordered to address impact of State v. McLinn, 307 Kan. 307 (2018), which rejected the crux of Blansett’s claim of instructional error. Blansett then argued the jury instructions prevented jury from considering how evidence of her mental disease or defect affected her ability to premeditate.
ISSUES: (1) Jury Instructions—Mental Disease and Defect; (2) Prosecutorial Error; (3) Cumulative Error
HELD: The inclusion of premeditation in the challenged jury instruction was technically a misstatement of the law set forth in McLinn, but not reversible error And contrary to Blansett’s new arguments, the jury instructions as a whole did not prevent the jury from considering how her mental disease or defect affected her ability to premeditate.
Three claims of prosecutorial error are examined. First, applying principles in State v. Williams, 299 Kan. 911 (2014), prosecutor did not suggest Blansett bore the burden of disproving the crimes charged when prosecutor told jury that defense had power to introduce evidence that defense counsel had inferred the State was hiding. Second, viewing State’s argument as a whole, prosecutor did not misstate evidence of Blansett’s intent with the knife. And distinguishing State v. Marks, 297 Kan. 1131 (2013), no error for prosecutor to argue that the nature of the weapons used and the multiple stab wounds were circumstantial evidence of premeditation. Third, prosecutor misstated evidence by mistakenly commenting that Blansett had testified, but this error was harmless under facts in this case.
Cumulative error doctrine does not apply to a single instance of prosecutorial error.
CONCURRENCE (Johnson, J.): Concurs in the result.
DISSENT (Beier, J.): Reiterates her dissent in McLinn. Would hold the inclusion of “premeditation” in the challenged instruction as an element of first-degree murder whose existence could be defeated by proof of Blansett’s psychosis was a correct statement of law.
The narrow definition of culpable mental state supplied by the instructions as a whole prevented jury from considering Blansett’s undisputed contemporaneous psychosis as competition for State’s evidence of her actions from which the jury might infer the existence of premeditation. Would hold this error was significant enough to reverse the first-degree premeditated murder conviction, vacate the sentence, and remand for further proceedings.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3601(b)(3); K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 5202(a), -5209
criminal law—criminal procedure—jury instructions—statutes
state v. murrin
clay district court—affirmed
court of appeals—affirmed
No. 115,110—march 8, 2019
FACTS: Murrin charged with drug offenses, criminal trespass, and interference with law enforcement. He requested a voluntary intoxication instruction for the drug-related charges, which the district court granted. Jury found Murrin guilty on all charges. Murrin appealed, claiming in part that although he had not requested it, district court should have instructed jury on voluntary intoxication as a defense to charges of criminal trespass and interference with law enforcement. Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion, finding criminal trespass and interference with law enforcement were both general intent crimes for which a voluntary intoxication instruction was not legally appropriate. Review granted on this one issue.
ISSUE: (1) Jury Instruction—Voluntary Intoxication
HELD: Statutory and caselaw history concerning “intent” and “knowledge” is reviewed. Aggravated battery conviction in State v. Hobbs, 301 Kan. 203 (2015), is cited as illustrating both the shift in meaning of “intentionally” and the change in what it means to be a general intent crime. A voluntary intoxication defense is available under K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5205(b) when a defining mental state is a stand-alone element separate and distinct from the actus reus of the crime. In this case, the district court erred by not instructing on voluntary intoxication as a potential defense for both crimes. Criminal trespass is a classic specific intent crime because the statute requires a stand-alone particular intent or other state of mind as a necessary element—Murrin must know he was not authorized or privilege to enter or remain. The statute defining interference with law enforcement prescribes no such stand-alone particular intent or other state of mind as a necessary element, but the instruction given for this crime arguably set one up as necessary to convict—Murrin knew or should have know the officer was a law enforcement officer. Nonetheless, under facts in this case, the district judge’s failure to give a voluntary intoxication instruction did not rise to clear error. The convictions are affirmed.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5202, -5202(a), -5202(b), -5202(h), -5202(i), -5205(b), -5414(a)(2), -5807(a)(1), -5808(a)(1)(A), -5812, -5812(1), -5904(a)(3), 22-3414(3); K.S.A. 21-3201(a), -3208(2)
state v. roberts
anderson district court—affirmed
No. 117,450—march 8, 2019
FACTS: Roberts pled no contest to rape of child under age of 14. Hard 25 year prison sentence imposed. Prior to his plea, a court ordered evaluation established that Roberts was competent. Years later Roberts filed motion to correct an illegal sentence, claiming he had never admitted he was older than 18 or that the victim was under 14 at time of the crime. District court denied the motion, finding both ages were established in the record. Roberts appealed. He conceded summary denial was appropriate on the age issue, but argued he was still entitled to relief because noncompliance with the statutory procedures for determining pre-plea competency deprived the district court of jurisdiction to sentence him.
ISSUE: (1) Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence
HELD: District court’s summary dismissal of the motion to correct an illegal sentence is affirmed. Roberts does not advance a substantive competency claim. A merely procedural failure to comply with competency statute, K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3202, is not jurisdictional, thus a motion to correct an illegal sentence is foreclosed. And on facts in this case, even the existence of a procedural flaw is far from clear. Although the judge did not make an explicit competency finding in open court, the competency issue appears to have been resolved by the district judge after the evaluation was ordered.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 22-3302, -3504(2); K.S.A. 21-3502(a)(2), 22-3302(1), -3302(3), -3504