Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reversal for failure to prove every element

Randall Hodgkinson won in State v. Huntington, No. 103,264 (Kan. App. April 29, 2011), obtaining the reversals of two Pawnee County convictions for battery against a mental health employee (K.S.A. 2006 Supp. 21-3448). In its holding, the court looked to the definition of "mental health employee" from K.S.A. 2006 Supp. 21-3448(c) and determined that the State failed to present sufficient evidence of essential elements of the crime.

The court held:
[T]he State was required to establish the following elements in order to sustain Huntington's conviction for battery against a mental health employee: (1) Huntington was in the custody of SRS when the alleged incident occurred on April 9, 2007; and (2) Dr. Strong and Burke were employed by SRS when the alleged incident occurred on April 9, 2007. Based on our review of the trial transcript, we find the State failed to present evidence to establish either of these elements. Although there was evidence presented that the SPTP was located in Larned State Hospital, that Huntington was civilly committed to the SPTP, and that Dr. Strong and Burke were employees of the SPTP, there was no evidence that Huntington, while in the SPTP, was in the custody of SRS or that Dr. Strong and Burke were employed by SRS.

The court also noted that the State was asking it to stack inference upon inference, which is not allowed. The court relied upon State v. Star, 27 Kan. App. 2d 930, 10 P.3d 37 (2000) (holding that there was insufficient evidence of sale of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school because the State did not present evidence that the building in question was used by a unified school district or an accredited nonpublic school for student instruction, attendance, or extracurricular activities). In reversing the felony convictions for battery against a mental health employee, the court ordered the district court to enter judgment for two convictions of simple battery under K.S.A. 21-3412 (noting that sufficient evidence existed for convictions on the lesser offenses).

[The State did not file a petition for review. The mandate issued June 2, 2011.]

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