Kansas Supreme Court Decisions, July 29, 2022

01 Aug 2022 9:48 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

Appeal No. 121,014: State of Kansas v. Daniel Earl Genson III

Appeal No. 121,014 archived oral argument

A Kansas Supreme Court majority affirmed decisions from a Court of Appeals majority and the Riley District Court, after Genson appealed his conviction for violating the Kansas Offender Registration Act by failing to register. On the sole issue the Supreme Court granted for review, Genson argued that K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-5203(e) unconstitutionally impaired his substantive due process rights by making his failure to register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act a strict liability felony. Nestled within the same issue, Genson also challenged the Court of Appeals majority refusal to consider two newly raised claims under the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court majority found the Court of Appeals majority did not abuse its discretion in refusing to consider these newly raised claims. The Supreme Court majority also concluded that the Legislature's criminalization of failure to register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act on a strict liability basis satisfied the rational basis test and was, therefore, constitutional.

Appeal No. 121,269: State of Kansas v. Thomas Earl Brown Jr.

Appeal No. 121,269 archived oral argument

A jury convicted Brown of first-degree murder and other crimes arising from the shooting death of Tiffany Davenport-Ray hours after her marriage. The Court rejected Brown’s argument that the Shawnee County District Court committed reversible error by admitting maps created by a police detective showing cell towers and locations of cell phones associated with Brown and a coconspirator on the night of the murder. The maps were cumulative of other evidence not challenged on appeal. The Court agreed with Brown that the prosecutor erred during closing argument by making statements that exceeded the wide latitude afforded prosecutors. But the Court ultimately concluded any errors were individually and cumulatively harmless. The State met its burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that evidentiary and prosecutorial errors did not affect the jury's verdict. The Court affirmed the convictions in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Marla Luckert.

Appeal No. 122,128: State of Kansas v. Carlos R. Bates

Appeal No. 122,128 archived oral argument

In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Marla Luckert, the Supreme Court affirmed the Sedgwick County District Court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress evidence. Police had responded to a report of suspicious activity in a neighborhood late at night and found the defendant sitting in his van in a darkened alley. Officers searched the vehicle after smelling marijuana and arrested the defendant. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the initial seizure of his vehicle was unlawful because officers did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Court held that the totality of circumstances in this case supported a finding of reasonable suspicion necessary to justify the investigative stop by officers as required under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and affirmed the district court's denial of Bates's motion to suppress evidence of the search.

Appeal No. 122,268: State of Kansas v. Dexter Betts

Appeal No. 122,268 archived oral argument

The Supreme Court reversed the Sedgwick County District Court's grant of statutory immunity and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. While securing the interior of a family home during a domestic violence investigation, Betts, a Wichita police officer, fired two gunshots in quick succession at a fast-approaching dog he thought was attacking him. He missed, and bullet fragments struck a young girl sitting nearby. The State charged Betts with reckless aggravated battery for injuring the girl. Betts moved to dismiss the charge before trial. He argued state law immunizes his use of deadly force in self-defense, even if he acted recklessly and regardless of who got hurt. The district court agreed with him and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Court reversed the lower courts' decisions. In doing so, the Court recognized Betts' case presented facts that it has not considered before. The Court noted that in the typical self-defense immunity case, the State charges a defendant with an intentional crime committed against a person claimed to be the aggressor. But here, the crime charged involved an innocent bystander, the little girl, who was unintentionally injured during Betts' allegedly reckless conduct while engaging in self-defense.

Relying on the plain language of the immunity statute, K.S.A. 2021 Supp. 21-5231(a), and the self-defense statute, K.S.A. 2021 Supp. 21-5222, the Court held the statutory grant of immunity is confined to the use of force, or deadly force, against a person or thing reasonably believed to be an aggressor. The Court, therefore, concluded our immunity statute does not extend its immunity to a defendant's reckless act while engaging in self-defense that results in unintended injury to an innocent bystander.

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