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Supreme Court releases for June 29 and July 6, 2018

16 Jul 2018 3:51 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)
The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions:

Appeal No. 115,483: State of Kansas v. Archie L. Robinson
Archived oral argument video

Robinson and his cousin Dustin Walker broke into a residence in Lawrence in 2014. One of the two cousins shot Patrick Roberts during the break in. A Douglas County jury convicted Robinson on charges of aggravated burglary and felony murder. Robinson appealed his conviction for felony murder, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, the felony-murder jury instruction impermissibly broadened the information, and the instruction did not conform to the evidence presented at trial. The Supreme Court rejected Robinson's arguments and affirmed. The court noted it is irrelevant who shot the victim when the State charges felony murder in a case in which several individuals commit an inherently dangerous felony; all participants in the underlying felony are principals to felony murder when a death occurs during the commission of, attempt to commit, or flight from an inherently dangerous felony. Consequently, the State does not have to prove which participant committed the act resulting in a death. By operation of the felony-murder statute, a complaint or information stating a defendant killed a victim during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony does not necessarily charge that a defendant personally committed the act that resulted in a death. And a trial court does not err when it instructs a jury on the elements of felony murder by stating the defendant or another killed the victim even through the complaint or information stated the defendant killed the victim. Kansas law considers all who commit an inherently dangerous felony to be a killer if a death results during the commission, attempt to commit, or flight from an inherently dangerous felony.

Appeal No. 116,174: State of Kansas v. Dustin D. Walker

Archived oral argument video

Walker and his cousin Archie L. Robinson broke into a residence in Lawrence in 2014. One of the two cousins shot Patrick Roberts during the break-in. Walker was charged with aggravated burglary and first-degree felony murder. A Douglas County jury convicted Walker of aggravated burglary, but it could not reach a verdict on the felony-murder charge. After a second jury trial resulted in a hung jury, but a third jury convicted Walker of felony murder. Walker appealed his convictions, arguing five claims of error. The Supreme Court rejected Walker's arguments and affirmed. The court found the district court erred by communicating with two jurors without Walker present and by shredding notes found in the jury room without first showing them to Walker or his attorney. But the court determined neither of these errors required reversal of the convictions, either on their own or cumulatively. The court rejected Walker's other claims of error. It held the district court did not err in admitting into evidence Walker's post-arrest interview with law enforcement and in instructing the jury.

No. 118,663: In the Matter of L.J Buckner Jr.

Archived oral argument video

Buckner, of Lenexa, was disbarred from the practice of law in Kansas for violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and Kansas Supreme Court Rules on communication; fees; safekeeping property; terminating representation procedures; engaging in misconduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; failure to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority; and failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation.

No. 118,723: In the Matter of John Bernard Sullivan

Archived oral argument video

Sullivan, of Austin, Texas, was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law in Kansas for violating the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and Kansas Supreme Court Rules on competence; diligence; communication; accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client; declining and terminating representation procedures; commission of a criminal act reflecting adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer; engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; failure to timely report felony charges to the Disciplinary Administrator; and failure to file a timely answer in a disciplinary proceeding. If Sullivan seeks reinstatement, he will be subject to a reinstatement hearing where he must meet certain conditions, as outlined in the published opinion.

Appeal No. 115,435: State of Kansas v. Matthew D. Wilson

Archived oral argument video

In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Riley County District Court's summary denial of Wilson's post-sentence plea withdrawal motion. One night, Wilson broke into an apartment and began shooting the occupants. During the ensuing panic, one occupant fired a defensive shot—meant for Wilson—that killed another occupant. Wilson later pled no contest to premeditated murder. On appeal, Wilson argued a factual basis did not support the plea because he did not shoot the victim. He also claimed his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to recognize this fact and advise him accordingly. Finally, Wilson requested a remand for an evidentiary hearing. The court held a factual basis supported the plea because Wilson proximately caused the victim's death. As an active shooter, Wilson created a deadly situation for the apartment's occupants, and the defensive shot was not an extraordinary event that broke the causal chain and became the sole cause of the victim's death. The court also determined a remand was unnecessary given the developed record and undisputed facts presented.

Appeal No. 114,269: State of Kansas v. Seth Torres

Archived oral argument video

Torres was convicted in Lyon County District Court of distribution of methamphetamine and unlawful use of a communication device to facilitate a drug transaction. Torres appealed his convictions, arguing police illegally searched the vehicle he was riding in at the time of his arrest; therefore, evidence of the drug transaction should not have been admitted at trial. He also argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for unlawful use of a communication device. The Supreme Court affirmed his convictions for both offenses. The court rejected his claim of an unlawful search because law enforcement officers had validly arrested Torres prior to the search and had a reasonable basis to believe evidence of the crime of might be found in the vehicle. The court also rejected his sufficiency of the evidence claim because the State presented sufficient evidence to prove all the elements of unlawful use of a communication device.

Appeal No. 114,284: Stephen Douglas White v. State of Kansas

Archived oral argument video

White filed a late motion under K.S.A. 60-1507, asking the Butler County District Court to apply the manifest injustice exception to consider his late filing. The district court rejected White's manifest injustice argument. While White's appeal was pending, the legislature amended K.S.A. 60-1507 to change the factors courts consider in making a manifest injustice determination. The Supreme Court held the legislature's amendments to K.S.A 60-1507(f) found in L. 2016, ch. 58, § 2, do not apply retroactively to 60-1507 motions filed before July 1, 2016. For motions filed before July 1, 2016, the test set out in in State v. Vontress, 299 Kan. 607, 325 P.3d 1114 (2014), governs the analysis of whether the exception applies. Under the circumstances of this case, the district court's findings of fact and conclusion of law were insufficient for an appellate court to review the district court's determination that an untimely K.S.A. 60-1507 motion need not be extended by the court to prevent a manifest injustice. The Supreme Court remanded the case with direction.

Appeal No. 116,981: State of Kansas v. Brandon Alvin Dannebohm

Archived oral argument video

In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Court of Appeal's determination that Dannebohm did not have standing to challenge the search of his friend's apartment in Barton County. The friend consented to a search of the apartment, and officers found 447.5 grams of methamphetamine in a safe belonging to Dannebohm. The State charged Dannebohm with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and no drug tax stamp, but the Barton County District Court suppressed the evidence. The State filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding Dannebohm did not have standing to challenge the search. The Supreme Court reversed, determining Dannebohm had standing because he could show a degree of acceptance into the household as well as a meaningful connection to the friend's apartment. The court further held Dannebohm's absence at the time of the search did not affect his standing. As a result, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals to consider the merits of the State's appeal.

Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released.

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