Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for premeditated first-degree murder, arson, and interference with law enforcement but vacated Defendant's controlling hard fifty life sentence, holding that the district court erred by not considering mitigating factors before deciding not to depart from the presumptive sentence. Defendant moved for a downward departure from a hard fifty sentence, arguing that she had no criminal history. The district court stated that it would not consider the absence of Defendant's criminal history as a mitigating factor because the legislature had rejected that argument as grounds for mitigation. The State conceded that the court's statement conflicted with the statutory sentencing scheme and incorrectly stated the law. The Supreme Court vacated the sentence, holding that the error was not harmless. View "State v. Galloway" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of aggravated robbery for robbing a Dollar General using a Taser and ordering Defendant to register as a violent offender under the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4902(e)(2), holding that Defendant was not erroneously ordered to register under KORA. On appeal, Defendant challenged the requirement that she register as a violent offender, arguing that the registration requirement was procedurally unsound and not supported by the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district judge made the necessary finding on the record under section 22-4902(e)(2); (2) the district judge had substantial competent evidence to support his finding that Defendant employed a deadly weapon in the aggravated robbery of the Dollar General; and (3) the district judge's fact-finding did not violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). View "State v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder but vacated the portion of his sentence ordering lifetime postrelease supervision, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of prosecutorial error and errors related to jury instructions but that the district court erred in ordering lifetime postrelease supervision following Defendant's indeterminate life sentence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the prosecutor did not err in his comments during closing argument; (2) the district court did not commit reversible error in failing to instruct on lesser included crimes and on voluntary intoxication; (3) Defendant's newly raised constitutional claims were without merit; but (4) the district court erred in imposing a term of postrelease supervision rather than parole. View "State v. Becker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, rape, and aggravated burglary, holding that the district court did not err in admitting prior sex crime evidence and did not commit clear error when it did not instruct the jury on intentional second-degree murder as a lesser included offense of first-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court should have sentenced him for intentional second-degree murder even though he was convicted of first degree premeditated murder under the identical offense doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's identical offense argument was unpreserved for appellate review; (2) the district court did not err when it admitted evidence of prior crimes under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-455; and (3) Defendant failed to establish that the jury would have reached a different verdict had the district court offered an instruction on intentional second-degree murder. View "State v. Gray" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of burglary, theft, and prohibited possession of firearms, holding that the district court judge's response to a jury's mid-deliberation question about jury nullification was not reversible error and that the jury instructions were not in error. During trial, the members of Defendant's jury asked if nullification can "be applied" to the firearm charges. On appeal, Defendant asserted that the district judge's answer affirmatively misinformed the jury and clearly implied that jury nullification did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district judge's response to the jury question was not error; (2) the burglary instruction given to the jury was erroneous but not reversible; and (3) the accomplice instruction was not error. View "State v. Boeschling" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that this Court cannot consider the merits of Defendant's constitutional arguments because a motion to correct an illegal sentence is an improper vehicle for them. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole for twenty-five years, known as a hard twenty-five, upon his plea of no contest to first-degree murder. Defendant later filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that his hard twenty-five was constitutionally disproportionate and that the district judge erred by imposing lifetime postrelease supervision. The district court agreed that Defendant should not be subject to lifetime postrelease supervision but rejected Defendant's constitutional challenge. Defendant appealed, arguing that his hard twenty-five was disproportionate under the state and federal constitutions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a motion to correct an illegal sentence cannot raise claims that a sentence violates a constitutional provision. View "State v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant after he pled guilty to felony possession of methamphetamine, felony domestic battery, and violation of a protective order, holding that the district judge did not engage in prohibited double counting of two prior misdemeanor domestic battery convictions. Defendant's domestic battery conviction qualified as a felony rather than a misdemeanor because it was his third such conviction in five years. In calculating Defendant's criminal history score to determine the sentence for Defendant's conviction for methamphetamine possession, the judge included the same two misdemeanor domestic battery convictions that were used to elevate Defendant's domestic battery to a felony. On appeal, Defendant asserted that the district judge engaged in double counting of the two prior misdemeanor domestic battery convictions under Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6810(d)(9). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that including Defendant's prior domestic battery convictions in Defendant's criminal history calculation for his primary grid conviction did not violate the double-counting provision of section 21-6810(d)(9). View "State v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denials of Defendant's motions to withdraw his pleas of guilty to first-degree felony murder and attempted second-degree intentional murder but vacated the imposition of lifetime supervision, holding that the district court had no authority to impose lifetime postrelease supervision. Before sentencing, Defendant moved to withdraw his pleas of guilty to first-degree felony murder and attempted second-degree intentional murder. The district court denied the motions. The court imposed a life sentence for the first-degree murder conviction and ordered lifetime postrelease supervision. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant's motions to withdraw his pleas; but (2) the district court erred when it sentenced Defendant to lifetime postrelease supervision on the first-degree murder conviction because Defendant was eligible for parole after serving twenty years of his off-grid indeterminate life sentence for that conviction. View "State v. Newman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing for lack of jurisdiction Appellant's appeal challenging his convictions, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it dismissed Appellant's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3602(a) provides that a defendant cannot appeal a conviction after pleading guilty. Appellant pleaded guilty to refusing to submit to a test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs and driving while a habitual violator. In a second case, Appellant again pleaded guilty to refusing to submit to a test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs and driving under the influence. Appellant appealed his convictions, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction to render them. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, ruling that it lacked jurisdiction to consider a direct appeal from a guilty plea. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that it lacked jurisdiction to review Appellant's claim. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a court of appeals panel reversing a conviction of burglary of a dwelling, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The panel reversed Defendant's conviction based on the building owner's testimony that no one lived there when the crime occurred and that the owner had no plans to live there or rent it out. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statutory definition of "dwelling" requires proof the burgled place was used as human habitation, home, or residence when the crime occurred or proof that someone had a present, subjective intent at the time of the crime to use the burgled place for such a purpose; and (2) because the State's case lacked that proof the evidence could not support the burglary conviction. View "State v. Downing" on Justia Law