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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for July 23, 2021

23 Jul 2021 11:51 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 121,316: State of Kansas vs. Joshua Knapp

Appeal No. 121,316 archived oral argument

 The Supreme Court affirmed Knapp's convictions of first-degree murder and interference with law enforcement. Knapp was convicted in Allen County District Court for killing Shawn Cook after a robbery gone bad. On appeal, Knapp claimed the district court erred by admitting evidence in violation of K.S.A. 60-455 and by admitting hearsay evidence, and that cumulative error denied him a fair trial. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court determined that even if the district court erred admitting certain evidence, the errors were harmless in light of the overwhelming evidence against Knapp. The Court declined to consider the hearsay claim because it was invited by Knapp. Justice Caleb Stegall, in a concurring opinion, explained that evidence of prior bad acts did not violate K.S.A. 60-455, as it involved events leading directly to or flowing out of the crime, which provided context of the crime itself for the jury.

Appeal No. 122,696: State of Kansas, ex rel, Secretary of the Department for Children and Families v. M.R.B. Jr. 

Appeal No. 122,696 archived oral argument video

 The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals on the issue subject to its review and remands this case to Douglas County District Court with directions after E.F. appealed the Court of Appeals decision granting residential custody to M.R.B. Jr. The Supreme Court ruled the Court of Appeals decision presents plain error by making its own factual findings after reweighing the evidence and reaching the conclusion of which parent should have residential custody.

Appeal No. 120,863: State of Kansas v. Archie Joseph Patrick Dooley 

Appeal No. 120,863 archived oral argument video

Dooley entered a plea of guilty for failing to register as an offender as required by statute. The McPherson County District Court sentenced him to a prison term of 120 months but granted him probation for a period of 36 months. The terms of probation included successfully completing a supervision program and keeping all scheduled appointments with his supervision officer. About a year later, the State moved to revoke his probation because he failed to report, changed residences without permission, and used drugs. After revoking his probation, the court reinstated it with the conditions that he serve a 30-day sanction in county jail and enter a halfway house upon his release from jail. Some months later, the State again filed to revoke his probation because he was using drugs, he failed to enter a halfway house, and he failed to report to his supervision officer. The court revoked his probation because he was an absconder and reinstated the original 10-year sentence. Dooley appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted review and reversed because the district court did not explicitly hold that Dooley had violated the terms of his probation by absconding. The Court remanded the case to the district court for a hearing on whether Dooley was an absconder. At the hearing, it came out that Dooley never left Dodge City, where he was supposed to stay in a halfway house; he was not actively hiding from law enforcement; he did not provide a new address because he was homeless; and he didn’t have the money to be admitted to the halfway facility. He turned himself in to law enforcement about a month after he missed a meeting with his supervisor. The district court found that this evidence was sufficient to conclude that Dooley was an absconder and again revoked his probation. A divided Court of Appeals again affirmed the revocation and imposition of sentence.

The Supreme Court again granted review. In a per curiam decision, the court affirmed the district court and the Court of Appeals. The court analyzed K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 22-3716 and held that the evidence supported a pattern of violations that permitted the district court to infer Dooley was intentionally evading the legal process. Justice Eric Rosen dissented, arguing that Dooley’s “pattern of conduct” boiled down to a single act—failing to report to his supervising officer—and one act cannot create a “pattern.”

Appeal No. 118,802: In the Matter of I.A. 

Appeal No. 118,802 archived oral argument video

 The Supreme Court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal of a juvenile offender challenging his conviction 19 years after his conviction was final. The juvenile argued that because the juvenile court failed to inform him of his right to file an appeal during the plea hearing, equitable exceptions should apply that would allow him to file his appeal after the deadline required by statutes in the juvenile justice code. The Court held that there was no constitutional due process right to be informed of the right to appeal, and that there was also no statutory directive in the juvenile code that required judges to inform an offender of his or her right to appeal. Because the right to appeal is statutory, and not constitutional, appellate courts lack jurisdiction to consider appeals that do not comply with statutory directives. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal.

Appeal No. 121,715: State of Kansas v. Heidi Hillard 

Appeal No. 121,715 archived oral argument video

 The Supreme Court affirms in part and reverses in part the decision of the Sedgwick County District Court after Hillard appealed her convictions for premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and rape. The Court determined that the State presented insufficient evidence to support Hillard's conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and reversed her conviction for that crime. The Court affirmed Hillard's remaining convictions and sentences. Specifically, the Court concluded that Hillard failed to preserve for appeal her objection to the district court's ruling that limited her cross-examination of one witness, and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the cross-examination of another witness; that the prosecutor did not misstate the law during closing arguments; that the district court did not err in issuing jury instructions; that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an audio recording of the interrogation of the victim; and that the district court properly classified a prior out-of-state conviction of Hillard's as a person felony for purposes of evaluating her criminal history score.

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