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Supreme Court Decisions, May 20, 2022

20 May 2022 11:30 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

Appeal No. 120,726State of Kansas v. Keeshaun W. Milo

Appeal No. 120,726 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed Milo’s convictions for felony murder, holding that a self-defense instruction may only be given in felony murder cases to the extent it may negate an element of the underlying inherently dangerous felony. Because no legal self-defense justification exists for the sale of marijuana, Milo was not entitled to a self-defense instruction.

The Court also found no error concerning Milo's remaining arguments. The Court concluded that the Sedgwick County District Court did not err in refusing to give an added requested jury instruction since the instruction was legally inappropriate; the district court did not wrongly deny Milo's acquittal motion because the State had presented sufficient evidence that Milo attempted to distribute marijuana; and finally, since the Court found no trial errors, Milo's argument that cumulative error deprived him of a fair trial also failed.

Appeal No. 120,935Rita J.Bicknell v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue

Appeal No. 120,935 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the Crawford County District Court judgment finding Bicknell was a nonresident in 2005 and 2006 for Kansas state income tax purposes. The appeal arose from the Kansas Department of Revenue's determination that Bicknell should have filed his 2005 and 2006 state income taxes as a Kansas resident. After a new trial, the district court found Bicknell was a Florida resident in those years and he properly filed his state income taxes as a nonresident. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the district court had improperly shifted the burden to prove residency from Bicknell to the Department of Revenue and that Crawford County was not a proper venue.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice K.J. Wall, the Supreme Court determined that the district court properly held Bicknell to his burden to prove he had changed his residency from Kansas to Florida. The Court also rejected the Department of Revenue's argument that taxpayers can only overcome the regulatory presumption that they share a domicile with their spouse by presenting evidence they live apart from their spouse. Instead, the Court held the regulation's plain language enables taxpayers to overcome the presumption by presenting any "affirmative evidence to the contrary," and affirmed the district court's finding that Bicknell overcame the presumption he shared his spouse's Kansas domicile. The Court also held substantial competent evidence supported the district court's finding that Bicknell was a Florida resident in 2005 and 2006, and the district court properly applied Kansas law in reaching its judgment.

The Court held Crawford County was a proper venue under the Kansas Judicial Review Act's venue statute, which provides the venue for judicial review of an agency order is proper in any county in which the order is entered or is effective. The Court held that when an agency order determines that an individual is a Kansas resident for tax purposes based on the individual's contacts with a particular county, the order is effective within that county. The Court found Crawford County was a proper venue because the agency order determined Bicknell was a Kansas resident based on his contacts with Crawford County.

Appeal No. 121,181State of Kansas v. Mark Holley III

Appeal No. 121,181 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed Holley's convictions for felony murder and child endangerment. In 2021, the Supreme Court reversed Holley's felony murder conviction because it concluded the jury should have been instructed on self-defense. Upon a motion for rehearing by the State, the Court now holds that a self-defense instruction is only available in felony murder cases to the extent it may negate an element of the underlying inherently dangerous felony. Because Holley's alleged self-defense could not legally justify any of the elements of the underlying inherently dangerous felony of aggravated robbery, Holley was not entitled to a self-defense instruction.

Additionally, the Court found the evidence sufficient to support Holley's convictions for child endangerment. The Court also vacated Holley's lifetime postrelease supervision sentence, concluding that a sentencing court lacks authority to order a term of postrelease supervision in conjunction with an off-grid, indeterminate life sentence. Lastly, the Court declined to vacate the district court's restitution order, as Holley did not preserve that argument for appeal.

Appeal No. 121,862State of Kansas v. Orville William Sieg

Appeal No. 121,862 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed Sieg's convictions for possessing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court held the trial evidence was ample to support his drug paraphernalia conviction; that limiting jury instructions was not applicable, and therefore the Leavenworth District County Court did not err in omitting them; and that the challenged prosecutorial comment was not improper.

Appeal No. 123,410State of Kansas v. Tanner Scott Mora

Appeal No. 123,410 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court reversed Mora’s convictions for felony murder stemming from his presence at a drug deal turned robbery gone wrong. Justice Caleb Stegall, writing for the Court, held that neither of the alternative counts of felony murder were supported by sufficient evidence.

The first conviction was based on the underlying felony of attempted aggravated robbery under an aiding and abetting theory of liability. Mora argued, and the Court agreed, that a clearly erroneous instructional error, coupled with insufficient evidence of a specific intent to aid and abet the principal in committing the attempted robbery, required reversal of this conviction. 

Mora's second felony murder conviction, charged in the alternative, was premised on the attempted underlying felony of distribution of marijuana. The Court also reversed this conviction, holding that a person who purchases or obtains a controlled substance for personal use cannot be convicted of distribution (or attempted distribution) of a controlled substance if there is no evidence that the person attempted or intended to later distribute that substance.

Case No. 124,083In the Matter of Jacqueline J. Spradling

Case No. 124,083 archived oral argument 

The Supreme Court disbarred Spradling from the practice of law. The court found the evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing demonstrated the respondent violated several rules of professional conduct by engaging in a serious pattern of grossly unethical misconduct, including ignoring the order of a district court, repeatedly making arguments that lacked evidentiary support, intentionally lying to the Supreme Court in her briefs and in oral arguments, and making false statements during the disciplinary investigation.

Case No. 124,587: In the Matter of Michael P. Jahn

Case No. 124,587 archived oral argument

Jahn was suspended from the practice of law in Kansas for a period of six months for violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct regarding scope of representation, conflict of interest, truthfulness, communication with person represented by counsel, misconduct, and jurisdiction. Jahn's suspension will be stayed after the first three months, provided he enters a probation plan approved by the Disciplinary Administrator's office.

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