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State v. Scott

December 7, 2007; as amended December 28, 2007

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLEE,
v.
BILLY L. SCOTT, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Reno district court; RICHARD J. ROME, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A charge of involuntary manslaughter under K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3404(c) requires the State to prove that the defendant's performance of a lawful act in an unlawful manner proximately caused the victim's death.

2. When the sufficiency of the evidence is challenged in a criminal case, the standard of review is whether, after review of all the evidence, examined in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the appellate court is convinced a rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While the State must sustain its burden of proof on each element of an offense charged, circumstantial evidence and the logical inferences therefrom are sufficient to support a conviction of even the most serious crime. If an appellate court holds that evidence to support a conviction is insufficient as a matter of law, the conviction must be reversed; and no retrial on the same crime is possible.

3. On the record in this case, the evidence of proximate causation was insufficient to support the defendant's involuntary manslaughter conviction under K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3404(c).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Beier, J.

Reversed.

Barkeep Billy Scott challenges his jury conviction of involuntary manslaughter for the death of patron Juanita Goodpasture, who expired the night she consumed a red, yellow, and green alcoholic concoction too aptly named "The Stoplight."

Evidence in the record before us is conflicting on exactly how much other alcohol Goodpasture consumed at Scott's establishment, The Point; on the exact contents of the three drinks composing "The Stoplight"; on whether Goodpasture drank "The Stoplight" to win a bet with Scott or a contest of his design; and on whether Scott offered a prize or refund if Goodpasture was able to refrain from using the bathroom and remain upright for 30 minutes after "The Stoplight" slid down her throat.

There is no conflict, however, on what happened to Goodpasture after she was assisted home from The Point. She passed out in the yard of her home, where her mother and a friend left her, alone and unconscious, until bar closing time. Goodpasture's mother and friends then worked together to get the 273-pound Goodpasture into her living room and left her alone again while they watched movies elsewhere.

The next day, Goodpasture was dead, a victim of acute ethanol intoxication. By the time of her autopsy, a blood alcohol content of .37 to .43 was detected. The examining physician opined that Goodpasture's aspiration of her stomach contents also could have contributed to her demise. Neither he nor any other witness testified that "The Stoplight," in particular, had a lethal role.

The State initially charged Scott under alternative theories of involuntary manslaughter--a violation of K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3404(c) based on the doing of a lawful act in an unlawful manner, and a violation of K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3404(a) based on unintentional and reckless behavior. After his arrest, it amended its complaint to charge Scott only under K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 21-3404(c).

At trial, the relevant portion of Jury Instruction No. 6, taken from PIK Crim. 3d 56.06, provided:

"In Count I, the defendant is charged with the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The ...


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