The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:
The first decision is for a case argued before the Supreme Court at its September 24 special session at Manhattan High School.
Appeal No. 116,690: State of Kansas v. Lee Edward Williams
Archived oral argument video
The Supreme Court upheld Williams' first-degree premediated murder conviction for the 2013 killing of Tysha Carvin during a domestic dispute in Wyandotte County. Williams claimed the prosecutor gave personal opinions about Williams' credibility, challenged potential jurors for racially discriminatory reasons, and used overly gruesome autopsy photographs to inflame the jury. The court rejected each argument.
Concerning the first matter, Williams asserted his gun simply went off during a struggle, which the prosecutor characterized at one point during closing argument as "fabricated," noting the gun fired seven times.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court noted the prosecutor carefully detailed the evidence that illustrated why Williams' theory was infeasible.
"In Williams' case, the prosecutor's statements about Williams' trustworthiness were within proper bounds," Biles wrote, "although words like 'fabricated' elevate the need for clarity in a prosecutor's remarks to tie the point being made to the evidence."
As to the other issues, the court held the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in rejecting Williams' arguments about the State's reasons for challenging the potential jurors and in allowing the five photographs into evidence.
Appeal No. 113,291: Daniel Becker v. The Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Company
Archived oral argument video
The Supreme Court reversed the Johnson County District Court's grant of summary judgment to The Bar Plan and remanded with directions. In this insurance coverage dispute, Becker asserted the doctrine of estoppel applied to prevent The Bar Plan from denying coverage of his claim. In a per curiam decision, the court held that an insurer that undertakes a defense of the insured without adequately reserving its rights to later disclaim coverage may later be estopped from disclaiming coverage if the insured detrimentally relied on the insurer's defense. But in this case, the question of whether the reservation of rights was adequate was a factual question and therefore not appropriate for summary judgment. The court reversed summary judgment and remanded for further fact finding on whether the timeliness of The Bar Plan's reservation of rights bars Becker's claim of estoppel.
Appeal No. 117,270: State of Kansas v. Brent L. Alford
Summary calendar; no oral argument
The Supreme Court affirmed the Sedgwick County District Court's summary denial of Alford's motion to correct illegal sentence. Alford argued his hard-40 sentence was illegal because the jury considered inadmissible hearsay evidence at sentencing and the court erroneously instructed the jury. The court unanimously rejected both of Alford's claims. It held that Alford's sentence was not illegal because it conformed to the applicable statutory provisions in both character and term of authorized punishment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decisionKansas Court of Appeals decisions released today