Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing all but one of Defendant's felony possession convictions and all but one of his misdemeanor possession convictions, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it found Defendant's possession of drug paraphernalia convictions were multiplicitous.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of eight counts of felony possession of drug paraphernalia under Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5709(b)(1) and seventeen counts of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia under subsection 21-5709(b)(2). On appeal, Defendant argued that his convictions were multiplicitous because they relied on multiple items of paraphernalia used for the same purpose as part of a unitary course of conduct. The court of appeals agreed and reversed seven of the felony possession convictions and sixteen of the misdemeanor possession convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the legislature intended the term "drug paraphernalia," as used in Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5709(b), to be tied to a single unit of prosecution. View "State v. Eckert " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for felony fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, holding that the court of appeals misapplied the standard required to determine when an instructional error necessitates reversal and that that the district court's failure to give a lesser included offense instruction for the misdemeanor offense was not clearly erroneous.The court of appeals found that the district court erred by failing to give an unrequested jury instruction on a lesser included misdemeanor offense and that reversal was required because the jury could have reasonably reached a different verdict on the felony charge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by using a lower standard of doubt about the outcome to declare the unpreserved error reversible; and (2) the unpreserved error in the jury instructions was not clearly erroneous. View "State v. Berkstresser " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's most recent request for postconviction discovery of the ballistics report from her case, holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant's motion.Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in a shooting death. The district court sentenced Defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole for forty years. Defendant later filed her motion requesting postconviction discovery. The district court denied the motion after applying the postconviction discovery test articulated by a panel of the court of appeals in State v. Mundo-Parra, 462 P.3d 1211 (Kan. 2020). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's claims of error on appeal lacked merit. View "State v. Richardson " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for the first-degree premediated murder of her estranged husband, holding that Defendant was not entitled to reversal on her claims of error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion or violate Defendant's right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment by placing limits on cross-examination; (2) the district court did not err by denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's evidence because the State presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of first-degree premeditated murder against Defendant; and (3) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's conviction for first-degree premeditated murder. View "State v. Frantz " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's convictions for two counts of violating the Kansas Offender Records Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4901 et seq., holding that holding that the registration directive in 22-4907(a)(12) is ambiguous and that the State's interpretation conflicts with the legislative history of the statute and rule of lenity.KORA makes it a crime for a person subject to it provisions to fail to register "any vehicle owned or operated by the offender, or any vehicle the offender regulatory drives, for personal use or in the course of employment." At issue was whether Defendant could be convicted for not registering another person's vehicle that was only driven one time. The Supreme Court concluded that he could not, holding (1) KORA does not require registering a vehicle driven only one time; and (2) because the evidence showed Defendant only drove each vehicle one time, Defendant's convictions must be reversed. View "State v. Moler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's "Motion to Set Aside and Correction of Illegal Sentence," holding that Kansas courts had jurisdiction to try and sentence Defendant.In 1998, Defendant was convicted of capital murder and other charges. The court sentenced Defendant to a hard forty life term and consecutive terms for the remaining offenses. In 2021, Defendant filed the motion at issue in this case, arguing that he was a "natural living soul, Indigenous Native Moorish-American National" and was therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of the state or federal government. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, because Defendant committed his crime in Kansas, Kansas courts had jurisdiction to try, convict, and sentence him. View "State v. Verge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence in part and vacated it in part, holding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by imposing a hard fifty life sentence for premeditated murder, but the judge lacked statutory authority to change the concurrent nature of the sentences upon remand for resentencing.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of one count each of premeditated first-degree murder, arson, and interference with law enforcement. On appeal, the Supreme Court vacated Defendant's hard fifty life sentence for premeditated murder. On remand, the judge again imposed a hard fifty life sentence for premeditated murder. Even though the Supreme Court had not vacated Defendant's sentences for arson and interference with law enforcement the judge reimposed the same terms of imprisonment for those convictions but ran the sentences consecutive to each other and to the hard fifty life sentence, rather than concurrently with each other, as ordered by the first judge. The Supreme Court vacated the sentence in part and remanded the case for resentencing, holding that the district court exceeded its statutory authority in changing Defendant's sentences for arson and interference with law enforcement from concurrent to consecutive sentences. View "State v. Galloway" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the district court denying Appellant's petition for postconviction DNA testing under Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-2512, holding that the district court erred in summarily denying the petition after finding that the only evidence in State custody Appellant sought to have tested - the victims' clothing - would not produce exculpatory evidence.After a second trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. In his most recent postconviction motion Appellant petitioned for postconviction DNA testing under section 21-2512, asking for DNA testing of the clothes he wore the day of the murders, the murder weapon, residue from his hands, and the victims' clothing. The district court denied the motion without a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed after interpreting section 21-2512 to clarify the procedures and respective burdens of the parties during the pretesting phase of the proceedings, holding that, under the circumstances, a remand for further proceedings was required. View "State v. Angelo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's motion to modify his sentence under Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6628(c), which requires courts to modify sentences if certain sentencing provisions are found to be unconstitutional, holding that Appellant was not entitled to a sentencing modification.In 1999, Appellant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to a hard forty sentence. After a retrial in 2005, Appellant was again convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. Before sentencing, Appellant filed a motion arguing that the hard forty sentencing scheme violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The sentencing court denied the motion and again imposed a hard forty life sentence. In 2016, after the Supreme Court decided State v. Soto, 322 P.3d 344 (Kan. 2014), Appellant filed a motion for a sentencing modification under section 21-6628(c). The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly denied the motion. View "State v. Albright" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for violating the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) by failing to register, holding that the legislature's decision to make the crime of failure to register a strict liability felony did not violate Defendant's substantive due process rights.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of violating KORA under Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4903(a) and (c)(1)(A) based on his failure to report in person during the month of November 2017. On appeal, Defendant argued that the strict liability character of the offense was unconstitutional. The court of appeals disagreed and affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to show that Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5203(e)'s strict liability criminalization of KORA registration violations did not violate Defendant's substantive due process rights. View "State v. Genson" on Justia Law