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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for May 14, 2021

14 May 2021 9:39 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 115,184: Ziad Khalil-Alsalaami v. State of Kansas

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Riley County District Court's denial of Khalil-Alsalaami's motion for post-conviction relief. After Khalil-Alsalaami's two convictions for aggravated criminal sodomy were affirmed on direct appeal, he filed a motion arguing his convictions should be reversed because his trial counsel and appellate counsel were ineffective, thus violating his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Khalil-Alsalaami, who is not a native English speaker, alleged among other deficiencies that his trial counsel failed to secure an interpreter during trial or fully advise him of his statutory right to an interpreter and appellate counsel failed to raise this issue on direct appeal. On rehearing, the Supreme Court held Khalil-Alsalaami had either failed to show counsel's performance was deficient or failed to show that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced his right to a fair trial. To the extent that Khalil-Alsalaami and the State presented conflicting evidence at the hearing on his motion, the Supreme Court determined it was limited on review to deciding whether substantial competent evidence supported the district court's factual findings. In other words, the Supreme Court could not reweigh the evidence, pass on the credibility of witnesses, or resolve conflicts in the evidence. Finally, the Supreme Court held that while a defendant's due process right to be present includes the right to have proceedings translated into a language he or she can understand, the district court's finding—that Khalil-Alsalaami possessed sufficient English comprehension to meaningfully participate in his defense—was supported by substantial competent evidence. Therefore, trial counsel's alleged failure to fully advise Khalil-Alsalaami of his statutory right to an interpreter did not require reversal of his convictions.

Appeal No. 120,783: State of Kansas v. Patrick M. McCroy

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal of Reno County District Court's disposition for McCroy's probation violation. The State argued the district court imposed a sanction that did not comply with the statute governing sanctions for probation violations, thus constituting an illegal sentence. On review, the Supreme Court held it lacked jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal. The Supreme Court upheld a prior decision finding Kansas' illegal sentence statute provides appellate jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal of an illegal sentence. However, the Supreme Court held the illegal sentence statute did not provide appellate jurisdiction in this case because a district court's failure to comply with the statute governing sanctions for probation violations does not fall within the statutory definition of an illegal sentence as defined by the Legislature. The Supreme Court further held no other statute provided a jurisdictional basis for the State's appeal.

Appeal No. 121,284: State of Kansas v. Casimiro Nunez

Archived oral argument video
Nunez hosted a party at his house where, according to Nunez and witnesses, an individual went after Nunez with a knife. After another guest separated them and knocked the assailant to the floor, Nunez shot the assailant several times, killing him. Nunez called 911 and then flagged down a passing police car. A subsequent search of the house turned up methamphetamine. At trial, Nunez asserted he was acting in self-defense when he shot the victim. A jury rejected the self-defense claim and convicted Nunez of one count of premeditated first-degree murder and one count of possessing less than one gram of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. Sedgwick County District Court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years for the murder and a concurrent term of 18 months for the drug charge. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Kansas Supreme Court, reached two dispositive conclusions. First, the State satisfied statutory requirements for establishing probable cause Nunez did not act in self-defense. As a result, Nunez did not enjoy immunity from prosecution. Second, the district court erred in refusing to give an imperfect self-defense instruction. Nunez requested an involuntary manslaughter instruction under K.S.A. 21-5405(a)(4), which makes it a crime to take a life in the lawful exercise of self-defense when the self-defense is carried out with excessive force. Analyzing the evidence presented at trial, the Supreme Court concluded a jury could have found Nunez had the right to take aggressive measures to protect himself and his home but that he used excessive force when he shot his victim, who had already fallen to the floor. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the murder conviction and remanded the case to Sedgwick County for further proceedings.

Appeal No. 121,789: State of Kansas v. Sidney W. Clark

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court vacated Clark's sentence and remanded to Reno County District Court for resentencing. On a prior appeal, the Court of Appeals had applied a 2018 Kansas Supreme Court decision to determine Clark's original 2005 sentence was illegal. On remand from the Court of Appeals, Reno County District Court resentenced Clark according to the 2018 decision. The State appealed, arguing several Kansas Supreme Court decisions issued shortly before Clark's resentencing indicated the 2018 decision did not apply to his sentence. The Kansas Supreme Court held the legality of Clark's sentence under Kansas' illegal sentence statute was controlled by the law in effect at the time his sentence was originally pronounced in 2005. The Supreme Court thus held Clark's most recent sentence was illegal because he was not entitled to the benefit of the 2018 decision. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld a prior decision finding the illegal sentence statute vests appellate courts with jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal of an illegal sentence.

Appeal No. 122,348: State of Kansas v. Christopher C. Harris

Archived oral argument video

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Harris' convictions in Shawnee County District Court for attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a firearm following a convenience store robbery and manhunt during which he shot a Topeka police detective. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court rejected Harris' various claims, including his constitutional argument that the presence of 15 to 20 police officers in the courtroom deprived him of a fair trial. The Supreme Court reasoned he failed to offer any evidence to show the officers' presence had any prejudicial impact under caselaw.

Appeal No. 123,423: In the Matter of Brent E. Lindberg, Respondent

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Lindberg from the practice of law for violations of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) (professional misconduct) and Kansas Supreme Court Rules 211(b) (failing to file an answer to the formal complaint) and 212(e)(5) (failing to appear). This suspension is effective May 14, 2021.

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