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Kansas Supreme Court Release for March 5, 2021

08 Mar 2021 10:35 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 120,028: State of Kansas v. James L. Thornton

Summary calendar, no oral argument

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld Thornton's convictions in Douglas County District Court for possession of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. After a short pursuit, Thornton was stopped by Lawrence police for failing to have headlamps on his bicycle. Officers discovered a syringe in Thornton's backpack, a glass pipe on his person, and a bag containing narcotics along the path of the pursuit. On appeal, the State conceded the backpack search was illegal and the syringe should have been excluded from the case. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, holding Thornton waived any argument the syringe's use at trial prejudiced him. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision as right for the wrong reason. The Court of Appeals should have addressed whether the improper use of the evidence prejudiced Thornton under its caselaw requiring the State to show lack of prejudice when it benefits from an error. But the Supreme Court addressed the issue itself, concluding the error was harmless given the trial evidence other than the syringe supporting the convictions.

Appeal No. 120,030: Emmanuel Ellie v. State of Kansas

Summary calendar, no oral argument

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Johnson County District Court, which reversed Ellie's convictions after finding an actual conflict of interest between Ellie and his counsel affected the representation. The Supreme Court held it could not reach the State's argument the district court applied the wrong standard because the State failed to preserve the issue for appellate review by failing to pinpoint cite where in the record it previously raised the issue or alternatively to argue why an appellate court could consider the issue for the first time on appeal.

Appeal No. 120,184: In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Richard A. Quillen

Archived oral argument video

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed a Johnson County jury's verdict that Quillen, who had been civilly committed under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act, was not safe to be placed in transitional release. On appeal, Quillen argued the district court erred when it denied his request to instruct the jury it must find Quillen had serious difficulty controlling his behavior and this instructional error violated his substantive due process rights. The Supreme Court held that at a transitional release hearing under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act, substantive due process requires the State to show the respondent continues to meet the criteria justifying initial commitment, including proof the respondent has serious difficulty controlling his or her behavior, in order to deny transitional release. But the Court also held the jury instructions given at Quillen's trial, when taken as a whole, necessarily and implicitly required the jury to find he had serious difficulty controlling his dangerous behavior and thus were constitutionally adequate.

Appeal No. 121,881:State of Kansas v. Michael Steven Hayes

Summary calendar, no oral argument

In an appeal filed by an inmate serving a life sentence for murder, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Atchison County District Court's summary denial of a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The inmate claimed his sentence was unconstitutional. Under longstanding precedent, constitutional claims do not fit within the narrow statutory definition of an illegal sentence.








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