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State v. Adams

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 21, 2013

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Tabatha L. Adams, Appellant.

SYLLABUS

1. An ineffective assistance of counsel claim presents mixed questions of law and fact. When such a claim is brought under K.S.A. 60-1507 and a district court conducts a full evidentiary hearing to review the claim, an appellate court reviews the district court's factual findings for substantial competent evidence and determines whether the court's factual findings support its conclusions of law. The district court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.

2. To prove ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the defendant must first show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Second, the defendant must demonstrate the deficient performance resulted in prejudice.

3. When a defendant enters into a plea bargain and later claims ineffective assistance of counsel, the proper inquiry under the second prong of Strickland is whether, absent trial counsel's errors, the defendant would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.

4. Under United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 104 S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed.2d 657 (1984), in certain narrow circumstances a defendant is not required to prove prejudice under the second prong of the Strickland test for ineffective assistance of counsel. One such circumstance is when counsel entirely fails to subject the prosecutor's case to meaningful adversarial testing.

5. K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 22-3210(d)(2) permits a district court to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing if doing so would correct manifest injustice. When a defendant seeks to withdraw a plea after sentencing based on ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must first demonstrate counsel's performance violated the Sixth Amendment in order to establish manifest injustice.

Appeal from Ford District Court; Van Z. Hampton, judge.

Christina M. Kerls, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Kevin B. Salzman, assistant county attorney, argued the cause, and Terry J. Malone, county attorney, David Belling, deputy county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.

OPINION

Moritz, J.

In this consolidated appeal, Tabatha Adams seeks review of (1) the district court's denial of her K.S.A. 60-1507 motion in which she contended her trial counsel was constitutionally defective in negotiating her guilty plea to one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and (2) the district court's denial of her motion in the underlying criminal case seeking to withdraw her guilty plea.

Although a lack of factual findings from the district court hinders our ability to review Adams' claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, we conclude Adams failed to demonstrate that even if she had received effective assistance of counsel, she would have declined to plead guilty and insisted on going to trial. Therefore, we affirm the district court's denial of her K.S.A. 60-1507 motion and her motion to withdraw her guilty plea.

Factual and Procedural Background

The State charged Adams with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, aggravated criminal sodomy, and sexual exploitation of a child. The State later amended the complaint to add a second count of sexual exploitation of a child. The charges arose when police were given a memory card containing 50 photographs depicting an 8-year-old female child and two adults engaged in a variety of sexual acts. Authorities identified the adults as Zach Noble and Adams and the child as Adams' biological daughter, S.A. Adams acknowledged during questioning by law enforcement that the photographs depicted her, her daughter, and her boyfriend, Noble. She also ...


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