Kansas Supreme Court
constitutional law—criminal procedure—motions—sentences
state v. bryant
wyandotte district court—affirmed
no. 118,848—november 27, 2019
FACTS: Bryant was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Sentence imposed included criminal history calculated using three 1981 Missouri convictions for second-degree burglary as person felonies. Bryant filed 2014 motion to correct an illegal sentence, challenging the classification of his 1981 Missouri burglaries as person crimes. District court denied the motion. Bryant appealed, arguing subsequent changes in the law rendered his sentence illegal, and the district judge unconstitutionally engaged in fact-finding when he designated the 1981 Missouri convictions as person felonies.
ISSUE: (1) Motion to correct illegal sentence—out of state convictions
HELD: State v. Murdock, 309 Kan. 585 (2019)(Murdock II), forecloses Bryant’s argument that the sentence imposed is illegal due to subsequent changes in the law. Bryant failed to establish that his sentence was illegal at the time it was imposed, and he cannot use a motion to correct an illegal sentence to argue that his sentence is unconstitutional.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-6801 et seq., 22-3504(1), -3504(3); K.S.A. 22-3504
constitutional law—criminal procedure—judges—trials
state v. johnson
sedgwick district court—affirmed in part, reversed in part
court of appeals—reversed and remanded
no. 113,228—november 27, 2019
FACTS: Johnson convicted of criminal possession of a firearm, aggravated assault, and felony criminal discharge of a firearm. During afternoon recess once jury was seated, parties and the court agreed to Johnson’s evidentiary stipulation to a juvenile adjudication for an act that would constitute a felony if done by an adult. Trial began that same afternoon with the admission of exhibits and court rulings on objections. The next day, the trial judge acknowledged he had nodded off after State had begun its case-in-chief. Parties declined trial court’s invitation for motion to seek mistrial. On appeal, Johnson claimed in part the trial judge committed structural error and failed to obtain a valid jury waiver regarding Johnson’s stipulation. Court of Appeals, comparing a sleeping judge to one who was physically absent from the bench, reversed and found the trial judge committed structural error. Panel also found a jury waiver was unnecessary to Johnson’s stipulation to an element of the crimes charged. 53 Kan.App.2d 734 (2017). Review granted on these panel decisions.
ISSUES: (1) Structural error; (2) jury waiver
HELD: An isolated incident of a trial judge nodding off during a portion of testimony where no objections were made does not create structural error requiring automatic reversal. While trial judge’s inattention in this case appears significant and serious, it is not reasonable to equate the judge’s nodding off to facts in cases involving a judge who physically left the bench. U.S. Supreme Court has not included a judge nodding off (or even a physically absent judge) in identifying the limited class of structural errors. And even in circumstances of actual judicial absence, some courts have refused to apply structural error. Case remanded to Court of Appeals to examine and rule upon in the first instance whether Johnson is entitled to relief based on trial court’s judicial misconduct, and for further consideration of all issues Johnson raised on appeal in light of today’s decision.
District court erred when it accepted Johnson’s elemental stipulation without first obtaining a knowing and voluntary jury trial waiver on the record.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 22-4905(b)(2)
Kansas Court of Appeals
HABEAS CORPUS—RETALIATORY CLAIMS
GRAMMER V. KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
ELLSWORTH DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 120,909—NOVEMBER 27, 2019
FACTS: While Grammer was incarcerated, the Kansas Department of Corrections seized several personal magazines from him. Grammer filed multiple appeals of these seizures through the KDOC administrative process. Grammer was successful in several appeals, but by the time rulings were made, the magazines had been thrown away and couldn't be returned to Grammer. Frustrated, Grammer sent a letter to the ACLU explaining about KDOC's magazine-seizure policy. The ACLU responded and initiated a correspondence which lasted for a few months. During this same time period, Grammer's sister asked KDOC to transfer Grammer from Hutchinson to Lansing, so that his ill and elderly mother could visit him. That request was granted. Grammer was housed on an upper level of the facility, and he filed a grievance claiming that accessing his living space aggravated his knee injury. Shortly thereafter, Grammer was transferred again, to Ellsworth. Grammer filed another grievance in which he claimed that this transfer was in retaliation for his complaints about his living quarters and his communication with the ACLU. After his grievances were denied, Grammer filed a K.S.A. 60-1501 petition. After hearing arguments from the parties, the district court denied the petition, finding that Grammer failed to prove that his facility moves were in retaliation for his grievances. Grammer appealed.
ISSUE: (1) Whether petition showed a prima facie case of retaliation
HELD: Prison officials may not retaliate against an inmate based on an inmate's exercise of protected rights. In this case, the district court correctly found that Grammer failed to prove that his transfers were made for retaliatory reasons. Although Grammer unquestionably engaged in a protected activity, there is no evidence that any of his facility transfers made it harder for him to engage in that activity. And although it was not required to do so, KDOC provided evidence of a legitimate reason for the transfers. For those reasons, the district court correctly denied Grammer's petition.
STATUTES: 42 U.S.C. §1983; K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 75-5206; K.S.A. 60-1501
constitutional law—criminal procedure—evidence—fourth amendment
state v. gonzalez
coffey district court—reversed and remanded
no. 119,212—november 27, 2019
FACTS: Gonzalez stopped for speeding and given a warning. Officer then employed “Kansas two step” to continue questioning and obtain consent to search the vehicle. Gonzalez filed motions to suppress drug evidence discovered in the search, claiming the officer unlawfully extended the traffic stop and lacked reasonable cause to search. He also claimed he was stopped on the basis of his race and other bias-based policing. District court denied the motions and convicted Gonzalez of drug offenses. On appeal Gonzalez challenged the district court’s denial of motions to suppress.
ISSUE: (1) Search and seizure—traffic stop
HELD: District court erred in finding Gonzalez’ continued detention after conclusion of the lawful traffic stop was a consensual encounter. Under totality of circumstances test stated in State v. McGinnis, 290 Kan. 547 (2010), a reasonable person would not have felt free to refuse the request for additional information or otherwise end the encounter after the officer turned around and asked Gonzalez if he would answer a few more questions. Consensual indicators set forth in State v. Thompson, 284 Kan. 763 (2007), are stated and applied. Because evidence seized as a result of the illegal detention in this case must be suppressed, no need to address alternative claim that suppression is required because officer unlawfully used national origin as a basis to justify the traffic stop.
state v. kane
sedgwick district court—affirmed
no. 119,749—november 27, 2019
FACTS: Kane robbed a restaurant by escorting an employee at gunpoint into the restaurant, and shooting the restaurant owner while leaving. Jury convicted him of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, and criminal possession of a weapon. Kane appealed, arguing insufficient evidence supported two of his convictions because: (1) there was no credible evidence of premeditation, an element of attempted first-degree murder; and (2) his interactions with the employee forced at gunpoint from the dumpster into restaurant’s back door did not facilitate the robbery as required by K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5408(a)(2).
ISSUES: (1) Sufficiency of the evidence—premeditation; (2) sufficiency of the evidence—kidnapping
HELD: State presented both direct and circumstantial evidence of Kane’s premeditation. Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the attempted first-degree murder conviction.
Sufficient evidence supported Kane’s kidnapping conviction. State v. Buggs, 219 Kan. 203 (1976), interpreted what it meant to “facilitate” a crime under the kidnapping statute. Factors stated in Buggs, while not specifically articulated in the kidnapping statute, are binding. A court may find a taking or confinement has independent significance from another crime for purposes of the kidnapping statute not only when an act actually makes a crime substantially easier to commit but also when the act has the potential to do so, even if the defendant never received the anticipated benefit. It is the nature of the act, not its result, that is legally important. Here, moving the employee from a public alley to inside the restaurant substantially decreased the risk of detection. That the employee escaped almost immediately upon reentering the restaurant does not impact the significance of Kane’s actions.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5408(a)(2),- 5420.