Saturday, December 19, 2009

McPherson acquittal in agg kidnapping case

Here is a Hutch News article reporting that David Harger won an acquittal in State v. Jackson, a McPherson County agg kidnapping/agg robbery/agg burglary prosecution.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Parties stipulate to IAC at capital sentencing phase

Here is a Topeka Capital-Journal article indicating that the state and defense have agreed to a stipulation that Phillip Cheatham received ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial. We blogged about coverage of this case previously here.

[Update: here is another Topeka Capital-Journal article reporting on the different sides on IAC at the guilt phase. The article indicates that Judge Braun has until February 8, 2010 to issue a decision.]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Motive and intent evidence

Robert P. Eye and Elizabeth R. Herbert won in State v. Wells, No. 99,813 (Kan. Dec. 11, 2009), obtaining a new trial in a Riley County criminal sodomy prosecution. The KSC reversed due to improper admission of prior bad act evidence for "motive" and "intent." The KSC reiterated the law regarding admission of this type of evidence and then specifically analyzed whether "motive" was a disputed material facts in this case:

In our view, the use of the defendant's prior bad acts to ostensibly prove his motive for entering the bedroom here is a dangerously short step away from simply using prior bad acts to prove his motive for committing the current, virtually identical, bad act. A prosecutor might argue: "We know his motive for going to her room that night was to sodomize her–because the evidence shows that he had sodomized her in this same house, perhaps in this same room, on prior occasions." Indeed, the language chosen by the State comes close to making this very argument in the instant case.

. . . .

Conviction for mere "propensity"–defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 1048 (1971), as an innate inclination, a tendency or bent–would be the almost certain result of admitting this evidence for motive. If this evidentiary admission practice were approved, prosecutors would understandably begin pressing trial courts for admission of all other past bad acts of a defendant to serve as motive for his or her present charges, especially when any degree of similarity existed.

Similarly, the KSC analyzed "intent" as a potential material disputed fact:

If the defendant admits the conduct but offers an "innocent" explanation, the Dotson court suggests the evidence of other crimes is admissible on intent. But if, as in Dotson, the defendant admits the conduct and offers no explanation, and no inference can be drawn regarding the innocence of the conduct, the evidence is not admissible on intent. When a defendant wholly denies committing the alleged acts, admitting evidence of prior bad acts to prove intent is error.

. . . .

Here, the disputed fact is whether Wells touched C.B., not Wells' purpose in entering her bedroom. He completely denies any touching. Therefore, intent was not a disputed material fact in the crime of aggravated criminal sodomy.

Because neither "motive" nor "intent" were disputed material facts, the KSC held the prior bad act evidence was improperly admitted in the trial. Also, because of the lack of physical corroborating evidence, the KSC held that the improper admission was prejudicial and ordered a new trial.

You also have to prove how much it's worth

Washburn student intern Katie Whitsitt and I won in State v. Reed, No. 101,165 (Kan. App. Dec. 11, 2009)(unpublished), obtaining a new trial in a Reno County criminal damage to property case. Ms. Reed was alleged to have thrown a hammer at a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, causing damage estimated by a shop to be $1,165.64. The COA agreed that to establish felony criminal damage to property (damage over $1,000), the state had to show that the property damaged was worth at least $1,000.
Reviewing the record with care, we find that the evidence supporting a value of the damaged truck consisted of its make and model (Chevy Silverado pickup), its vintage (2006), its mileage (37,000), and its condition from photos (appears in good condition).
On this record, the COA held that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that the truck was worth $1,000 or more. But the COA also held that "given the rather scant evidence of value and the defense argument that [value] had not been established" the district court should have given a requested instruction for misdemeanor criminal damage to property. As a result, Ms. Reed gets a new trial.

I think this is sort of an interesting result. Are jurors really expected to just "know" the fair market value of a vehicle. I wonder at what point the record would be insufficient in the COA's mind: a 2005 truck? a 2000 truck? a 2006 truck with 100,000 miles? a 2004 truck with 75,000 miles? Maybe it's just one of those "you know it when you see it" holdings.

[Update: neither party filed a PR and the mandate issued on January 14, 2010.]

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Can't detain just because they have a dealer tag

Thanks to Tenth Circuit Blog for noting U.S. v. Pena-Montes, No. 08-2169 (10th Cir. Dec. 7, 2009), where federal public defender Stephen McCue won reversal and remand on Fourth Amendment grounds in a New Mexico federal illegal re-entry prosecution:
Although the officer initiated the stop based on the reasonable belief that the vehicle lacked a license plate, after he pulled it over, he observed that it did, in fact, display a “dealer tag” but continued the detention to question the vehicle’s occupants to determine whether the plate’s use was lawful. Because we conclude that the officer could not have reasonably suspected criminal activity after he saw a dealer plate but before he began questioning the vehicle’s occupants, we hold that the continued detention of Pena-Montes violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

As a result, the Tenth Circuit reverses and remands for a hearing on whether indentity must be suppressed (deemed a separate issue).

Friday, December 04, 2009

They're back! Woo-hoo!

So glad to see Kansas Federal Defenders back in the blogosphere! What a brain trust keeping us up to date on federal case law and generally smart thoughts on criminal law/procedure! Yay!