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The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions July 17, 2020

17 Jul 2020 1:44 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions July 17, 2020

Appeal No. 116,515: State of Kansas v. Christopher M. Harris

Archived oral argument 

Harris was convicted in Sedgwick County District Court of criminal possession of a weapon for carrying a pocketknife. Under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6304, it is a crime for a convicted felon to possess a knife. The statute defines knife as "a dagger, dirk, switchblade, stiletto, straight-edged razor or any other dangerous or deadly cutting instrument of like character." In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held the residual clause "or any other dangerous or deadly cutting instrument of like character" in K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6304 is unconstitutionally vague because it fails to provide an explicit and objective standard of enforcement. This lack of an explicit and objective standard of enforcement impermissibly delegated legislative power to the executive and judicial branches. Thus, the court reversed Harris' conviction and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the charge of criminal possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Justices Dan Biles and Eric Rosen and Court of Appeals Judge Henry Green Jr. dissented, concluding that K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 21-6304 is not unconstitutionally vague on its face or as applied to Harris and would remand to the district court for a new trial so Harris could pursue his mistake-of-law defense.

Appeal No. 116,670: State of Kansas vs. John Christopher Harrison

Archived oral argument

The Supreme Court affirmed Harrison's convictions of various crimes resulting from a traffic stop and physical encounter with police. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court rejected Harrison's claim that Johnson County District Court erred when it responded to a jury question by having court staff deliver a written note to the jury room rather than convening in open court and answering the question in Harrison's presence. The Supreme Court reasoned Kansas statute expressly authorizes this delivery, and the federal constitution does not prohibit it.

Appeal No. 116,810: State of Kansas v. Amber E. Burden

Archived oral argument 

Burden represented herself at trial and was convicted by a jury. On appeal she argued Sumner County District Court should not have allowed her to proceed pro se. The Supreme Court held the district court was not required to appoint counsel for a defendant who wished to exercise her constitutional right to self-representation when there was no evidence of severe mental illness.


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