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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for August 13, 2021

13 Aug 2021 12:46 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 122,739: State of Kansas v. Justin Eugene Thurber

Summary calendar; no oral argument

 The Supreme Court reversed the Cowley County District Court’s denial of Thurber’s motion to appoint counsel in connection with his petition for postconviction DNA testing under K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-2512. The district court had concluded that because Thurber's direct appeal was still ongoing, Thurber's convictions had not become "final," so an attempt to seek relief under K.S.A. 2020 Supp 21-2512 was premature. On review, the Supreme Court determined that K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-2512 does not require that a petitioner's conviction reach a state of finality on direct appeal before the petitioner may initiate proceedings under the statute. The Supreme Court further concluded that K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-2512 constitutes a special legislative exception to the general rule that a district court loses jurisdiction once a matter has been docketed for appeal. Consequently, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision and remanded the matter back for further proceedings under K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-2512, independently of the ongoing litigation surrounding Thurber's direct appeal of his convictions.

Appeal No. 119,584: State of Kansas v. Jose Armando Contreras

Appeal No. 119,584 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed in part the Scott County District Court judgment. Contreras was convicted of two counts of rape, two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, and one count of aggravated intimidation of a victim, for which he was sentenced to life in prison. In his defense, Contreras attempted to offer the testimony of the victim's father who had previously pled guilty and been convicted of sex crimes against the victim; however, the father invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify at trial. The Supreme Court found that based on the record presented to the district court, the father had presented "substantial competent evidence" of the basis of his privilege that Contreras did not refute. The court reversed the Court of Appeals decision, which improperly made factual findings based on evidence outside of the original district court record. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to decide other issues raised by Contreras on appeal.

Appeal No. 122,861: State of Kansas v. Nathaniel L. Hill  

Summary calendar; no oral argument

 The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part Hill's sentence. The Montgomery County District Court properly denied Hill's motion for sentence modification and that judgment is affirmed. Likewise, Hill is serving a legal sentence which does not require a remand for resentencing. But Hill's off-grid sentence is followed by parole and not postrelease supervision, so the lifetime postrelease supervision shown in Hill's journal entry of judgment is vacated.

Appeal No. 123,682: In the Matter of Roy T. Artman 

Appeal No. 123,682 archived oral argument

 In an original proceeding in attorney discipline, the Supreme Court disbarred Artman from the practice of law in Kansas, effective November 27, 2019, for violations of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) (2021 Kan. S. Ct. R. 427) (committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

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