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.