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State v. Wilkins

Court of Appeals of Kansas

October 31, 2014


Page 337

Appeal from Shawnee District Court; RICHARD D. ANDERSON, judge.



1. When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case the appellate court must affirm the jury verdict if, after reviewing all the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the appellate court is convinced a rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellate courts do not reweigh evidence, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or make witness credibility determinations.

2. Determining a statute's constitutionality is a question of law that is reviewed de novo. Statutes are presumed to be constitutional; all doubts must be resolved in favor of validity, and if there is any reasonable way to construe a statute as constitutionally valid, the court has the authority and duty to do so.

3. The test to determine whether a criminal statute is so vague as to be unconstitutional entails two related inquiries: (1) whether the statute gives fair warning to those potentially subject to it, and (2) whether it adequately guards against arbitrary and unreasonable enforcement.

4. The phrase " thwart or interfere in any manner with the orderly administration of justice" in K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5909 is not unconstitutionally vague.

5. Whether a district court has erred by refusing to give a requested definitional instruction is a legal question subject to unlimited review.

6. Not every difficult term requires a definitional instruction as jurors are expected to decipher many difficult phrases without receiving specific definitions. When words or phrases are easily comprehended by individuals of common intelligence, they do not require a defining instruction. Words only require definition when the instructions would otherwise mislead the jury or cause jurors to speculate.

Randall L. Hodgkinson, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.

Jodi Litfin, assistant district attorney, Chadwick J. Taylor, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.

Before BUSER, P.J., STEGALL, J., and BUKATY, S.J. BUSER, J., dissenting.


Page 338

Stegall, J.

Breonna Wilkins was convicted of aggravated intimidation of a witness in violation of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5909. This is Wilkins' direct appeal claiming: (1) the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence; (2) the language of K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5909 is unconstitutionally vague; and (3) a jury instruction error. Because we find that no reversible error occurred below, we affirm.


In July of 2011, Natalie Gibson was murdered and Lori Allison was shot outside of their home in Topeka, Kansas. Eventually, nine individuals were arrested and charged as codefendants in connection with these crimes. Most of the codefendants were either related to or well known by Wilkins. Among them were her boyfriend, Ronald Wakes, and another friend, juvenile F.W. Over the course of multiple legal proceedings, two of the codefendants--Bayate Covington and another juvenile, D.R.--accepted plea agreements with the State and began to provide testimony on behalf of the State concerning the events in question.

Wilkins and Wakes were recorded during numerous phone calls while Wakes was in custody. On August 28, 2011, the two discussed the case against Wakes. Wilkins said, " I'm just worried about you know, what everybody else is saying." Wakes replied, " Yeah, I'm saying if everybody keep their mouth shut, and can't nobody prove nothing." During a later conversation, Wilkins and Wakes discussed contacting one of the codefendants who had been placed in protective custody (Covington was being held in protective custody after agreeing to cooperate with the State). Wilkins, however, told Wakes, " Nobody knows where he's at." She said she was writing Covington a letter though, and Wakes said, " Good. Make him feel . . . miserable for lying." Still later, Wilkins and Wakes discussed another codefendant, Jimmy

Page 339

Netherland, and Wakes asked Wilkins to come to the jail and talk to Netherland. Wakes told Wilkins to " tell him to keep his . . . mouth shut." Wilkins said she would look into it.

Wilkins never communicated directly with F.W. Wilkins did deliver messages via a third party to F.W. (nicknamed " Nookie" ) while F.W. was in custody. Z.A., a juvenile known to Wilkins and in a dating relationship with F.W., spoke to F.W. on Wilkins' behalf during another recorded jailhouse phone call. Z.A. told F.W., " [Wilkins] just asked about you like, do you know what Nookie's doing? I was like yeah, she's thinking about pleaing or whatever, and then she was like tell her not to because I've talked to like, uh, a couple different lawyers, and they're saying all the DA is trying to do is get everybody to plea out because they don't have enough evidence." During a subsequent conversation, F.W. and Z.A. were discussing news reports that described various codefendants providing testimony on behalf of the State. Z.A. said, " [D.R.] testified. . . . I guess [he] took the plea that everybody was offered . . . you didn't take that shit did you?" F.W. replied that she had not taken any plea offer. F.W. then asked, " How do you know [D.R.] took that plea?" Z.A. replied, " 'Cause that's what Breonna said. . . . And she was like please tell me Nookie didn't take it."

Z.A. also testified during Wilkins' trial that Wilkins " asked me if [F.W.] had taken a deal, and I told her that she was thinking about taking one." Wilkins then told Z.A. " to tell [F.W.] not to take a deal." After Z.A. urged F.W. not to accept a plea offer from the State, F.W. did in fact reject a plea offer that would have allowed her to be prosecuted as a juvenile rather than an adult in exchange for her truthful testimony. She subsequently accepted a less favorable plea offer after being certified to stand trial as an adult. F.W. testified that she was ...

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