Appeal No. 121,203: State of Kansas v. Zachary Buck-Schrag
Archived oral argument video
Buck-Schrag shot and killed Travis Larsen after Larsen's car collided with the back of a car in which Buck-Schrag was riding. Buck-Schrag claimed he shot Larsen in self-defense, but a Shawnee County jury convicted Buck-Schrag of first-degree felony murder and reckless second-degree murder in the alternative. It also convicted him of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a firearm. Writing for a unanimous Kansas Supreme Court, Justice Eric Rosen affirmed the convictions after holding the prosecutor did not err when he said to the jury "this is not the Wild West, and this is not 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.' We simply cannot go around killing one another with guns just because we are afraid." The court ruled the comments were not error because they were made while arguing the defendant cannot use deadly force based on subjective fear alone. The court also concluded there was sufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt Buck-Schrag did not act in self-defense and the standard pattern jury instructions adequately informed the jury of the State's obligation to prove Buck-Schrag's guilt. It declined to review for the first time on appeal Buck-Schrag's argument the identical offense doctrine required him to be sentenced based on the lower alternative conviction of second-degree murder. Finally, it affirmed the district court's order that Buck-Schrag pay $7,000 in attorney fees.