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Kansas Supreme Court reverses conviction in first-degree murder case

A gavel. (courtesy MGN Online)
A gavel. (courtesy MGN Online)(KCRG)
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 6:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Supreme Court issued three new decisions on Friday, Sept. 11.

The Kansas Supreme Court says it heard and issued decisions in three cases on Friday, Sept. 11, including reversing a conviction in a first-degree murder case out of Grant County.

The Kansas Supreme Court said in Appeal No. 115,184: Ziad K. Khalil-Alsalaami v. State of Kansas it granted Khalil-Alsalaami’s motion for post-conviction relief following his Riley County convictions for two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. It said Khalil-Alsalaami argued his convictions must be reversed due to his trial counsel being ineffective and thereby violating his rights under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Court, Khalil-Alsalaami argued his trial attorneys were ineffective for stipulating that a confession made by Khalil-Alsalaami during police interrogation was voluntary. It said during the hearing, his trial counsel acknowledged that three of the five recognized voluntariness factors weighed in favor of suppression, but decided to not challenge the admissibility as a matter of trial strategy.

The Supreme Court said it held such a strategy constituted ineffective assistance of counsel due to requiring them to cede one of the major pillars of the State’s case against Khalil-Alsalaami. It said it also held there was a reasonable probability hat Khalil Alsalaami may have been acquitted.

The Court said it reversed Khalil-Alsalaami’s convictions and remanded the case to the Riley County District Court. It said Justice Carol Beier and Senior Judge Patrick McAnany concurred. It said they would have held there was a second error of constitutional magnitude due to his trial counsel not protecting his statutory right to have an interpreter to help him. It said Justice Dan Biles and Justice Caleb Stegall dissented.

The Kansas Supreme Court said it heard Appeal No. 118,712: Fairfax Portfolio LLC v. Carojoto LLC et al. and affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing Wyandotte County District Court’s decision about the enforceability of a mortgage clause granting mortgagee or ender the right to immediate exclusive possession of the property upon the event of the mortgagor or borrower’s future default. It said it held there is no support in the law to rely on such a provision and absent either express or implied consent after default, the mortgagor of real property may retain possession.

The Court said in Appeal No. 118,894: State of Kansas v. Michael Alan Keyes Keyes was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in Grant County. It said on direct appeal, Keyes challenged his conviction, claiming the district court erred in refusing to give his requested jury instructions of self-defense and involuntary manslaughter.

The Court said in an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, it held the district court erred in failing to give a self-defense instruction. It said due to it not being convinced there was no reasonable probability the error affected the outcome of the trial, it reversed Keyes' conviction and remanded his case to Grant County District Court.

According to the Court, Judge Steve Leben wrote a concurring opinion questioning whether the court refused to give a jury instruction central to the defense case instead of the unconstitutional harmless error test. It said because the State did not show the error was harmless here and neither parties briefed the issue, Leben joined its opinion in full.

The court said in Appeal No. 120,246: State of Kansas v. Curtis L. Coleman Jr. it affirmed Wyandotte County District Court’s decision summarily denying Coleman’s post-sentence motion to modify the sentence. It said he filed a motion seeking to modify his hard-40 life sentence which was initially imposed in 1999.

The Court said in a unanimous opinion written by Senior Judge Mike Ward, it rejected Coleman’s contention that his sentence violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial due because the trial judge, not a jury, made the factual findings necessary for sentence enhancement. It said it reasoned no legal avenue existed for the relief requested by Coleman.

To read the Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released on Friday, click here.

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