Kansas Supreme Court
appeals—criminal procedure—evidence—jury instructions—sentences
state v. broxton
wyandotte district court—reversed and remanded
court of appeals—affirmed in part and reversed in part
no. 114,675—april 17, 2020
FACTS: Broxton convicted of second-degree murder, burglary, and felony theft. During trial, State introduced identity evidence of Broxton’s arrest in a 1996 Florida homicide case that closely mirrored the homicide in this case. District court denied Broxton’s request to admit evidence of a “No Information” document executed by the Florida prosecutor that indicated Florida lacked sufficient evidence to charge Broxton. District court found the document lacked probative value because it did not decisively state Broxton was innocent of that crime. District court also denied Broxton’s request for a felony-murder instruction, finding the instruction was legally inappropriate because State only charged Broxton with first-degree premeditated murder and felony murder. is not a lesser included offense. Broxton appealed claiming district court erred by: (1) failing to give a felony-murder instruction; (2) excluding from evidence the Florida homicide investigation document; and (3) improperly scoring Broxton’s prior Florida burglary conviction as person felony. Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion.
As to the felony-murder instruction claim, panel found such an instruction was not factually appropriate in this case, and relying on State v. Young, 277 Kan. 588 (2004), explained that district court may instruct for felony murder even though the State only charged premeditated first-degree murder but was under no duty to do so. Broxton petitioned for review of panel’s decision that a felony-murder instruction was not factually appropriate. State cross-petitioned panel’s holding that a felony-murder instruction was legally appropriate.
As to the exclusion of evidence claim, panel found the No Information document was relevant, but district court’s error in excluding this evidence was harmless. On appeal, Broxton challenged the panel’s harmlessness conclusion; State challenged panel’s finding of error.
As to the scoring of Broxton’s prior Florida burglary conviction, a claim raised for first time on appeal, Broxton cites the change of law in State v. Wetrich, 307 Kan. 552 (2018).
Review granted on Broxton’s petition and the State’s cross-petition.
ISSUES: (1) Jury instruction—uncharged crime; (2) admission of “no information” evidence
HELD: District court did not err in refusing to give a felony-murder jury instruction. Young predates the more precise framework for analyzing jury instructions adopted in State v. Plummer, 295 Kan. 156 (2012), and misstep in Young is apparent when viewed in light of Plummer. Because State did not charge Broxton with felony murder—and felony murder is not a lesser included offense of any crime Broxton was charged with—a felony-murder instruction was not legally appropriate in this case. No need to consider if the instruction would have been factually appropriate.
District court erred by excluding the Florida “No Information” document from evidence, but any prejudice resulting from this exclusion was harmless in light of the entire record.
The 1989 Florida burglary conviction must be scored as a nonperson felony. The Florida burglary statue prohibits a broader range of conduct than the Kansas statute, thus these are not comparable offenses. Under State v. Williams, 311 Kan. __ (2020), the change of law in Wetrich did not make Broxton’s sentence illegal, but did render it erroneous. Broxton must be resentenced correctly with his Florida burglary conviction scored as a nonperson felony. Sentence is vacated and case is remanded for resentencing.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-261, -455; K.S.A. 21-6810(d), -6811(c), -6811(j), 60-455
appeals—constitutional law—criminal law—sentences—statutes
state v. Corbin
saline district court—affirmed
no. 119,665—April 17, 2020
FACTS: Corbin entered no contest plea to first-degree premeditated murder. At sentencing he argued he was a person with an intellectual disability who was not subject to a mandatory minimum prison term by operation of K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6622(b). District court disagreed and imposed a hard-25 life sentence. While Corbin’s appeal was pending, the legislature amended the statute to add other ways to establish the “significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning” standard. Kansas Supreme Court reversed and remanded for district court to reconsider Corbin’s motion using the new legislative criteria for determining intellectual disability. State v. Corbin, 305 Kan. 619 (2016). On remand, Corbin was allowed to present additional information. District court resentenced him to the original mandatory term, again finding Corbin was not a person with intellectual disability and. Corbin appealed.
ISSUE: Intellectual disability
HELD: District court did not abuse its discretion when it rejected Corbin’s motion and imposed a mandatory term of imprisonment. District court’s decision is reviewed as a “reason to believe” determination under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6622(b). Implications of extending State v. Thurber, 308 Kan. 140 (2018), outside the death penalty context are not argued or considered.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6622, -6622(b), 6622(h), 22-3601(b); K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 76-12b01(i); K.S.A. 60-2101(b), 76-12b01(i)
state v. frazier
geary district court—reversed and remanded—court of appeals - reversed
no. 117,456—April 17, 2020
FACTS: Officers stopped car driven by Gould with passenger Frazier. Heroin was found, which led to search warrant in Ohio and discovery of drug evidence there. In Kansas, Frazier and Gould entered pleas pursuant to plea agreements that stated Ohio authorities agreed to dismiss and/or not file any charges resulting out of search warrant obtained as a result of the Kansas arrest. Prior to sentencing Frazier filed motion to withdraw plea, citing his discovery that an Ohio prosecutor had signed Gould’s agreement but not Frazier’s. District court denied the motion, finding the plea was fairly made and Frazier fully understood the consequences of his plea. Applying factors in State v. Edgar, 281 Kan. 30 (2006), Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion. Panel emphasized Frazier’s awareness that his attorney had not spoken with Ohio authorities, and they had not signed off on his plea agreement, and concluded Frazier was not misled or coerced about possibility of being charged in Ohio. Frazier petitioned for review, arguing district court abused its discretion because there were misleading or false statements contained in the plea agreement.
ISSUE: Withdrawal of plea—plea agreement
HELD: Fundamental problem not addressed below is that Frazier was relying on a promise of conduct not made by a party to the plea agreement. Under basic principle of contract law, prosecutor and defense counsel presented Frazier with a contract that could be legally unenforceable against any Ohio prosecutor. A defendant does not understandingly sign a plea agreement when he relies on an uncertain provision that works in his favor and he justifiably believes that provision to be a certainty. No dispute in this case that the certainty of the lack of prosecution in Ohio was a significant factor in Frazier’s decision to enter into the plea agreement. District court’s decision finding no good cause for withdrawal of Frazier’s plea was based on errors of fact and law. Reversed and remanded to district court for Frazier to be permitted to withdraw his plea.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 22-3210(d)(1)
appeals—constitutional law—criminal procedure
state v. harris
atchison district court—reversed and remanded; court of appeals—reversed
no. 117,362—april 17, 2020
FACTS: Harris was convicted in bench trial of felonious possession of marijuana. He appealed on four issues, claiming in part for first time that he did not properly waive his right to jury trial. Court of Appeals affirmed, 55 Kan.App.2d 579 (2018). Review granted on all issues.
ISSUE: Waiver of right to jury trial
HELD: Court addresses merits of the jury trial claim to prevent denial of fundamental right. District court failed to properly apprise Harris of right to a jury trial and failed to ensure Harris understood the nature of the right he was waiving. Once Harris expressed his preference, district court simply accepted that Harris wanted the court to decide the matter and moved on without taking any steps to ensure Harris understood the right he was giving up. District court and Court of Appeals decisions are reversed. Case remanded to district court so Harris can be informed of right to a jury trial—and either exercise that right or properly waive it. Remaining issues in the appeal are not addressed.
CRIMINAL LAW—CRIMINAL PROCEDURE—EVIDENCE—JURY INSTRUCTIONS
STATE V. UK
LYON DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 119,712—APRIL 17, 2020
FACTS: UK charged and convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. Based on evidence he had quarreled with victim, UK requested a voluntary manslaughter instruction as a lesser included offense. District court denied that request, finding no evidence of legally sufficient provocation. On appeal, UK claimed district court erred in not giving the jury the requested instruction, arguing district court improperly evaluated the degree of the quarrel as opposed to its existence, and further argued Kansas caselaw has erroneously conflated the separate statutory elements of “sudden quarrel” with “heat of passion.” UK also claimed for first time on appeal that district court erred in giving jury an unmodified PIK instruction that did not sufficiently define “premeditation.”
ISSUES: (1) Jury instruction—voluntary manslaughter; (2) jury instruction—premeditation
HELD: UK’s request for a voluntary manslaughter instruction was legally appropriate but not factually appropriate. The mere existence of a “sudden quarrel” immediately preceding a homicide, without evidence of legally sufficient provocation, is insufficient to make a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter factually appropriate. In this case, no error in district court’s limited gatekeeping determination that evidence did not constitute legally sufficient provocation. And UK’s conflation-of-statutory-elements argument essentially asks the court to overturn precedent dating back to State v. Coop, 223 Kan. 302 (1978), which the court declines to do.
District court did not err in defining premeditation for the jury. Though the PIK instruction used both “intent” and “intentional” within two sentences, in context the meanings of those two words leave no doubt that “premeditation”—as a thought process conducted some time before an act—is clearly different than the intentional nature of the act itself.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5202(h), -5402(a)(1), -5404
Kansas Court of Appeals
IN RE HENSON
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED AND REMANDED
NO. 120,543—APRIL 17, 2020
FACTS: Chris and Gina Henson divorced in 1991. Gina was awarded primary custody of the couple's children; Chris was ordered to pay child support and half of the children's medical expenses. Several years after the divorce, Chris moved to California while Gina remained in Kansas. In 1994, Gina attempted to enforce Chris's child support obligations, a case was opened in California, and Chris began paying child support under an income withholding order. A few years later, the district court trustee asked the California court to increase the child support amount and require payment for medical bills and insurance. The California court significantly increased Chris's child support obligation and asked that additional funds be paid towards the arrearage. In 2002, Chris moved to Colorado. The court trustee registered the California judgment and Chris's employer began withholding income. Gina moved to determine an arrearage, and after Chris did not appear the district court issued a default judgment, basing the arrearage amount on the California judgment. Chris eventually moved to set aside the default judgment on grounds that the California judgment was void. That motion was denied, and the district court renewed its holding that the California judgment remains in effect and that any calculation of Chris's arrearage should be based off that judgment. Chris appealed
ISSUES: (1) Jurisdiction of California court; (2) validity of default judgment; (3) request for setoff; (4) income withholding order; (5) attorney fees
HELD: Chris's challenge about the validity of the California judgment involves a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. As such, it may be raised at any time. Similarly, there is no time limit on a challenge to a void judgment. Chris did not acquiesce in the California judgment by paying child support under it; paying a void judgment cannot amount to acquiescence. When the district court modified Chris's child support obligation, the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act was in effect in California but not in Kansas. The Full Faith in Credit for Child Support Orders Act accounts for this, requiring each state to recognize ongoing child support obligations from other states and giving them power to modify child support obligations only under limited circumstances. The FFCCSOA preempts URESA with respect to child support modification in an URESA enforcement action. Under the FFCCSOA, only Kansas had jurisdiction to modify Chris's child support obligation. California's child support modification order is void and cannot be used as a basis for default judgment or to determine arrearages. The district court did not make adequate findings of fact to allow for a review of whether Chris is entitled to an equitable setoff for amounts he overpaid under the void California judgment. That fact-finding must be done on remand. The district court was required to issue an income withholding order after it determined the amount of Chris's arrearage. But because the order is based on the void California judgment, the withholding order is no longer legally enforceable. On remand, the district court must determine the appropriateness of enforcing any future income withholding order. The district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding Gina attorney fees for representation undertaken in district court. But Gina is not awarded attorney fees on appeal because the application for fees did not comply with Supreme Court Rule 7.07(b)(2).
STATUTES: 23 U.S.C. §1738B; K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 23-2715, -3103(a), -36,202, -36,205, -36,205(c), -36,313, 60-260(b)(4), -260(b)(5), -260(c); K.S.A. 23-451, -9,101, -3106(a)