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Supreme Court Releases for March 13, 2020

13 Mar 2020 7:14 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

The Kansas Supreme Court released the following published decisions today:



Appeal No. 117,941: State of Kansas v. Crystal Dawn Galloway

Archived oral argument video

A Cherokee County jury convicted Galloway of one count of premeditated first-degree murder, one count of arson, and one count of interference with law enforcement. The district court sentenced her to a controlling hard-50 life sentence. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the conviction. The court held the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Galloway's motion for a change of venue, noting she had failed to demonstrate prejudice in the jury selection process that denied her a fair trial. The court also held the district court did not err when it admitted into evidence, for impeachment purposes, a recording of Galloway's statements to investigators shortly after her arrest. The court found Galloway made the statements voluntarily and she was not under such a disability that she was unaware of or unable to exercise her rights. The court further rejected her claims of error based on an assertion that a question from the jury was not answered in open court and that a jury instruction on the duties of a jury denied her a right to jury nullification. Having affirmed the conviction, the Supreme Court addressed Galloway's claim of error in sentencing. The district court refused to consider her lack of criminal history to be a mitigating factor despite a statutory requirement that sentencing courts consider such factors as possible mitigators. The court found the sentencing judge's statements to be contrary to Kansas statutory law and remanded the case for resentencing.



Appeal No. 118,349: State of Kansas v. Willie E. Parker

Archived oral argument video

A Wyandotte County jury convicted Parker of first-degree premeditated murder after he shot his employer to death following an argument. Justice Eric Rosen, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the conviction. The court held Parker's statements to police after his arrest were voluntarily made and there is no absolute requirement investigators read a suspect his Miranda rights out loud if he insists on reading them himself. The court also held the evidence did not support a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter because the evidence of premeditation, including recordings from surveillance cameras and Parker's statements to police, was so overwhelming.



Appeal No. 119,862: State of Kansas v. Yesenia Sesmas

Archived oral argument video

The Supreme Court affirmed Sesmas' Sedgwick County convictions for first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated interference with parental custody. In 2016, Sesmas murdered Laura Abarca and kidnapped Abarca's newborn daughter. At trial, the State introduced evidence of a confession Sesmas gave shortly after her arrest. On appeal, Sesmas argued the confession was involuntary and should not have been admitted. Sesmas claimed the confession was involuntary because she did not speak English and she was coerced by the fact her children were in Child Protective Services' custody at the time. The Supreme Court found the confession was voluntary; police provided a certified Spanish translator for Sesmas and made no promises or false representations regarding custody of her children. Sesmas also argued the State violated her due process rights by introducing a detective's testimony that Sesmas initially invoked her Miranda rights and declined to speak with police. The Supreme Court held admission of this testimony was error but the error was harmless in light of the entire record at trial; the State thoroughly undermined Sesmas' credibility with other evidence; and there was no reasonable probability the error contributed to the jury's guilty verdict.

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