Kansas Supreme Court
HABEAS CORPUS, RIGHT TO COUNSEL
BALBIRNIE V. STATE
FRANKLIN DISTRICT COURT—COURT OF APPEALS IS REVERSED
DISTRICT COURT IS REVERSED—CASE REMANDED
NO. 115,650—JULY 24, 2020
FACTS: Balbirnie was convicted of second-degree murder, and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. Throughout that process, Balbirnie consistently proclaimed his innocence and blamed the murder on one of the other people present at the scene of the crime. Within one year of his conviction being affirmed, Balbirnie filed a K.S.A. 60-1507 motion in which he claimed trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and then introduce at trial a recording of a 911 call at which an eyewitness named another person as the murderer. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that trial counsel did not perform deficiently and even if he had, Balbirnie failed to establish prejudice. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the district court on the question of trial counsel's performance, finding that the failure to introduce the 911 call fell below an objective standard for reasonably effective representation. But the panel ultimately affirmed the district court, holding that this deficient performance did not prejudice Balbirnie. The Supreme Court granted Balbirnie's petition for review.
ISSUES: (1) Performance; (2) prejudice
HELD: Balbirnie prevailed in the Court of Appeals on the issue of deficient performance and did not seek review of that decision. The State did not file a cross-petition for review either, although case law existing at the time the petition was filed suggests such a filing was not necessary. A cursory glance at the Court of Appeals' decision shows that it correctly ruled that trial counsel's failure to introduce the 911 call was not a strategic decision was, in fact, objectively unreasonable. A review of the evidence in its totality shows that if the call had been introduced there was a reasonable probability the jury would have made a different decision. This is true even though there was evidence of Balbirnie's guilt.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 60-420, -1507
state v. martinez
shawnee district court—affirmed
no. 119,739—july 24, 2020
FACTS: Martinez convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and other crimes arising from a drive-by shooting. On appeal he claimed the prosecutor erred in closing arguments by saying “The defense has speculated about other peoples [sic] motives, but the State has actually presented evidence.” Martinez argues this impermissibly shifted the burden of proof and infringed on his constitutional protection against compulsory self-incrimination.
ISSUE: (1) Prosecutorial error
HELD: Prosecutor’s statements were within the wide latitude allowed in closing arguments. The comments, when read in context, appropriately explained how the evidence supported the State’s theory of the case, and did not offend Martinez’ constitutional right to a fair trial. Prosecutor did not comment on Martinez’ failure to testify or argue Martinez had to prove that he lacked a motive or that witnesses had a motive to lie. Prosecutor did not suggest the defense had any burden to do something in response to the State’s evidence or that 000Martinez needed to testify and explain his action. Nor did the prosecutor shift the burden or comment on Martinez’ failure to testify by pointing out the defense’s argument rested on an inference.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 60-439
criminal law—criminal procedure—jury instructions—
state v. thomas
chautauqua district court—affirmed in part, reversed in part,
vacated in part, remanded
court of appeals—affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part
no. 115,990—july 24, 2020
FACTS: Thomas convicted of aggravated battery, abuse of a child, and aggravated endangering of a child. On appeal he argued: (1) district court erred by giving jury instructions that allowed the jury to convict him of aggravated battery if it found he intended the conduct but not the harm; (2) prosecutor improperly inflamed the passions and prejudices of jurors during closing argument by showing them photos of the child’s injuries and repeatedly telling them to acquit only if the jurors thought it was acceptable to inflict such injuries on “your child;” (3) cumulative effect of these two errors denied him a fair trial; and (4) district court erroneously scored Thomas’ 2001 out-of-state Virginia conviction for domestic assault and battery as a person crime. Court of Appeals affirmed in unpublished opinion, finding in part the aggravated battery jury instruction was erroneous but the error was harmless, and prosecutor’s if-you-think-it’s-okay statements did not encourage jurors to consider factors outside the evidence and law. Review granted.
ISSUES: (1) Jury instructions—aggravated battery; (2) prosecutorial error; (3) cumulative error; (4) sentencing
HELD: District court’s aggravated battery instructions were erroneous. Under State v. Hobbs, 301 Kan. 203 (2015), “knowingly” in elements of aggravated battery means more than just proving the defendant intended to engage in the underlying conduct, and requires State to prove the defendant acted when he or she was aware the conduct was reasonably certain to cause the result.
Prosecutor’s If-you-think-it’s-okay statements were error. Panel’s reasons for finding that prosecutor’s statement did not encourage jurors to consider factors outside the evidence and law are examined and criticized as conflating the analysis of error with whether error was harmless. As to the child abuse charge the prosecutor’s error was harmless. Thomas’ conviction on this charge is affirmed. As to the aggravated battery charge for which instructional error was found, the combined impact of these errors must be considered.
Cumulative error denied Thomas a fair trial on the aggravated battery charge. The erroneous jury instruction allowed the jury to find guilt based on a less culpable intent than required by the statute, and State’s repeated comments urged jury to convict based on emotional consideration rather than a reasoned and deliberate consideration of facts and law. The aggravated battery conviction is reversed and case is remanded for a new trial on this charge.
Assault and battery, as defined by Virginia common law, is broader than Kansas battery and could encompass behavior that is not a crime in Kansas. Under State v. Wetrich, 307 Kan. 552 (2018), district court incorrectly calculated Thomas’ criminal history score and should have scored the 2001 Virginia conviction as a nonperson crime. Remanded for resentencing.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-6811(e); K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5413, -5413(b), -5413(b)(1)(A), -5413(g), -5602, -6811(e), 22-3414(3)
Kansas Court of Appeals
IN RE MARRIAGE OF DAVIS AND GARCIA-BEBEK
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 121,110—JULY 24, 2020
FACTS: Davis and Garcia-Bebek divorced in 2014. They shared joint legal custody of two minor children and Garcia-Bebek had permission to take the children to visit family in his native country of Peru every other year. In 2018, Davis sought to be awarded sole legal custody of the children after Garcia-Bebek was charged with three federal crimes. Perhaps because of his legal issues, Garcia-Bebek moved back to Peru. But he asked for reasonable parenting time which would include having the children visit him in Peru for up to 30 days at a time. The district court initially ruled in Garcia-Bebek's favor but was swayed to reconsider by Davis's argument that Garcia-Bebek's crimes showed that he was untrustworthy, making international parental kidnapping a realistic possibility. Garcia-Bebek appealed.
ISSUE: (1) Parenting time outside of the United States
HELD: The district court did not prevent Garcia-Bebek from exercising his parenting time. It just prevented him from doing so in Peru. There was nothing to prevent Garcia-Bebek from visiting the children in their home country. It is undisputed that there is an outstanding indictment in a federal criminal case and a warrant for his arrest in Kansas. This evidence is sufficient to support the district court's decision preventing the children from visiting Garcia-Bebek in Peru.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 23-3203(a), -3208(a)
constitutional law—criminal procedure—probation—sentencing—statutes
state v. lyon
sedgwick district court—affirmed
no. 120,993—july 24, 2020
FACTS: Lyon convicted on his pleas to charges of aggravated battery, criminal possession of a firearm, and endangerment of a person. Pursuant to the plea agreement, district court imposed dispositional departure sentence of probation with underlying prison term. District court’s calculation of criminal history included Lyon’s 2010 Kansas aggravated burglary conviction as a person felony. Probation violation warrant issued four months later, alleging in part that Lyon committed the felony offense of aggravated battery/domestic violence. Trial judge revoked probation, finding Lyon had committed misdemeanor domestic battery. On appeal, Lyon claimed the trial court’s revocation of probation denied Lyon due process because the State failed to allege he committed a domestic battery in the probation violation. He also claimed his 2010 Kansas conviction should have been classified as a nonperson felony because the elements of the 2010 version of aggravated burglary are broader than the elements of the 2017 version of the crime.
ISSUES: (1) Due process—revocation of probation; (2) sentencing—criminal history
HELD: District court did not err in revoking Lyon’s probation. The warrant’s allegation that Lyon committed aggravated battery/domestic violence sufficiently notified him of what the State intended to prove, and it is uncontested that substantial competent evidence supports the trial court’s finding of domestic battery.
The identical-or-narrower test in State v. Wetrich, 307 Kan. 552 (2018), which applies to out-of-state offenses and to Kansas offenses committed prior to the1993 implementation of the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act (KSGA), does not apply to the scoring of Lyon’s post-KSGA Kansas conviction. A post-KSGA Kansas crime is properly scored as a person offense if the crime was classified as a person offense when it was committed and when the current crime of conviction was committed and when the current crime of conviction was committed even if the prior version of the earlier crime’s elements are broader than the elements of the current version. Lyon’s alternative constitutional argument under Apprendi is not properly before the court and is not considered. Whether recodification and/or statutory amendments to aggravated burglary amounted to a repeal for purposes of K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-6810(d)(8) is examined, finding no such determination is required in this case. Regardless of the statutory amendments to aggravated burglary, district court properly scored Lyon’s prior conviction for aggravated burglary as a person offense.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-5109(b), -5111(i), -6801 et seq., -6804(c), -6804(p), -6809, -6810, -6811(e)(1); K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 21-5414(a), 22-3716, -3716(b)(1), -3716(c)(8)(A), -3716(c)(9)(B); K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5807(b), -5807(b)(1), 5807(e), -6810(d), -6810(d)(8), -6810(d)(9), -6811(e)(3); K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-3715(a), -5103(d), -5413, -5427(3), -6811(d)(1); K.S.A. 21-3412, -3701, -3715, -3716, -4843, 22-3716