Mr. Davis argued that K.S.A. 22-3302 requires suspension of proceedings once competency is raised as a legitimate issue. The KSC agreed–once the court ordered a competency determination, a hearing was mandatory and further proceedings violated both the statute and the Due Process Clause. Because no hearing or determination was made in this case after the order for a competency determination, the KSC, 6-1, held that the district court lacked jurisdiction, rendering the sentence illegal:
As mentioned earlier, [Mr. Davis’] due process rights were violated, and the district court had no jurisdiction. Accordingly, under our facts there is no place for a harmless error analysis.The KSC also considered a potential retroactive finding of competency. The KSC acknowledged SCOTUS precedent holding that a retroactive competency proceeding can be permissible although inherently difficult. The KSC adopted the factors applied by the Tenth Circuit in McGregor v. Gibson, 248 F.3d 946 (10th Cir. 2001) for determining whether a retroactive competency hearing can be meaningfully conducted: (1) passage of time, (2) availability of contemporaneous medical evidence, (3) any statements by the defendant in the trial record, and (4) availability of individuals and trial witnesses who were in a position to interact with defendant before and during trial. Although trial counsel had testified that he thought Mr. Davis was competent by the time of trial, the KSC held that the combination of passage of time with a lack of contemporaneous medical evidence rendered any retroactive competency determination insufficient to protect defendant’s Due Process rights. As a result, the Court vacated the conviction and remanded for new trial (if Mr. Davis is determined competent today).
This is a little surprising, albeit correct, decision. There seem to be a legion of cases (like this) where the KSC says a defendant can’t get to a conviction-related issue, even a constitutional issue, by motion to correct illegal sentence. The distinction is the jurisdictional nature of the claim in this case. I wonder if there are many other jurisdictional type claims that could be raised under K.S.A. 22-3504? One might be venue (see this recent entry on the McElroy case). Maybe an intrastate detainer claim?
[Update: the state filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in this case on June 14, 2006. The SCOTUS denied the petition on October 2, 2006]