The Kansas Supreme Court released published decisions today in the following cases:
Appeal No. 113,962: State of Kansas v. Jeffrey Wade Chapman. The Supreme Court upheld Chapman's first-degree premeditated murder conviction for the 2011 killing of Damon Galyardt, whose body was found along a rural road in Barton County. Chapman admitted the killing but claimed it was in self-defense. A jury rejected that argument and convicted him. On appeal, Chapman argued that pretrial publicity denied him a fair trial. His case generated notoriety when he asked permission to have a prominent tattoo on his neck removed that read "REDRUM" ("murder" spelled backward).
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court reviewed the questioning leading up to the final jury selection and noted, "The record shows the jury was selected with relative ease, with Chapman passing the panel for cause with no challenges during general voir dire." The court further observed the district court went to special efforts to avoid empaneling jurors tainted by publicity.
The court also rejected Chapman's argument that the district court erred by admitting into evidence the substance of a text message, in which one of Chapman's friends purportedly asked Chapman before Galyardt's murder if Chapman wanted to go "shoot a dog." Chapman claimed this was hearsay and its probative value was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. But the court ruled that even assuming error, there was no prejudice to Chapman.
Appeal No. 111,995; State of Kansas v. Maurice Orlando Stewart: The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Stewart's convictions for felony murder, aggravated robbery, burglary, and theft, emanating from incidents in an Olathe motel in 2010. The Supreme Court held that the Johnson County District Court's jury instruction on the alternative theories of first-degree murder was legally appropriate and that any error of omission in the jury instruction on the force element of aggravated robbery was invited error. The Supreme Court further opined that, while Stewart's low intelligence quotient (IQ) score placed his competency to stand trial in issue, a preponderance of the evidence supported the district court's finding that Stewart was able to understand the nature and purpose of the criminal proceedings and that he could assist in making his defense. With respect to the defense challenge to the reliability of the expert testimony on blood spatter evidence, the Supreme Court related that any procedural error created by the trial court's failure to re-visit the merits of the evidentiary challenge was, at most, harmless error. Finally, the Supreme Court determined that the cumulative effect of trial errors did not rise to the level of denying the defendant a fair trial.
Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today
State of Kansas
Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 SW 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507