The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:
The first case was argued in a March 30, 2017, special session at Southwestern College in Winfield.
Appeal No. 112,035: State of Kansas v. Marcus Gray
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Marla Luckert, the Supreme Court ruled that a defendant may move to suppress evidence found during a traffic stop on a theory that law enforcement officers violated Kansas's law against bias-based policing.
The court explained that Kansas law permits a defendant aggrieved by an "unlawful" search and seizure to move for suppression of any evidence found — and "unlawful" can refer to both a violation of the Constitution or a violation of state law. Thus, if police officers violated a Kansas state law regarding bias-based policing, such as by using race or other bias to determine whether there was probable cause for a stop or search, a defendant could pursue a suppression remedy to address that violation.
In Gray's case, the Harvey County District Court credited the arresting officer's testimony that Gray was not stopped "because of his race," since there had been a traffic infraction justifying the stop. The Supreme Court stated it had no reason to doubt this credibility determination, but that it was not the right inquiry. The question was not whether Gray was stopped "because of" his race (i.e., whether race was the cause for the stop), but whether the police officer unreasonably used race in deciding to initiate an enforcement action. The Supreme Court vacated Gray's convictions and remanded to the district court for another hearing on the motion to suppress.
Appeal No. 110,048: State of Kansas v. Aaron M. Sayler
The Supreme Court affirmed Sayler's conviction in Kingman County District Court for failing to register as an offender under the Kansas Offender Registration Act. Sayler claimed the district court did not have jurisdiction to decide his case because the criminal complaint failed to allege that he resided in Kingman County. He also argued the jury was required to find he resided in Kingman County.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court rejected both arguments. The court held the district court had jurisdiction over Sayler's case because that authority comes from the state Constitution but not from a charging document. As to the second claim, the court held Sayler could not show clear error. Sayler failed to show the jury verdict would have been different if the instruction were written as Sayler claimed it needed to be.
Appeal Nos. 107,114 and 107,115: State of Kansas v. Willie J. Scuderi
The Supreme Court affirmed Scuderi's convictions of two counts of failing to register in Reno County as a drug offender, as required by the Kansas Offender Registration Act. Scuderi claimed his convictions were ex post facto punishment for his 2002 conviction of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell since the registration requirement did not exist at the time of original conviction on the underlying drug offense. He also claimed his sentence was improperly calculated using his criminal history score and that one of his offender registration convictions was based on a complaint that failed to allege he resided in Reno County.
The court rejected each of these claims based on existing caselaw. Justices Carol Beier, Eric Rosen, and Lee Johnson dissented on the ex post facto issue. They agreed with Scuderi on that point.
Appeal No. 113,104: Sharron Jenkins v. Chicago Pacific Corporation, et alKansas Court of Appeals decisions released today
The Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the Jackson County District Court quieting title to the land underlying a now-abandoned railway that once ran through the town of Holton. The dispute centered on whether an 1886 deed to the railroad company conveyed the property for use as a right of way. The court held that it did.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court held the language in the 1886 deed and longstanding Kansas caselaw demonstrated the railroad acquired only an easement in the property originally and the land reverted to the landowners when the railroad quit operating the railroad.
Jenkins claimed ownership to the strip of land through a series of quitclaim deeds that originated with the railroad. But the court agreed with the district court, which found that when the railroad quitclaimed its interest to the company from which Jenkins acquired her interest, "the railroad deeded land it was not legally capable of deeding."