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State v. Meeks

Supreme Court of Kansas

December 19, 2014

STATE OF KANSAS, Appellee,
v.
DEBORAH MEEKS, Appellant

Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed January 18, 2013.

Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; JOHN J. McNALLY, judge.

SYLLABUS

BY THE COURT

1. Under the United States and Kansas Constitutions, a defendant is entitled to present the theory of his or her defense and excluding evidence that is an essential part of that theory violates a defendant's fundamental right to a fair trial.

2. A defendant cannot disclaim a theory of defense before the trial court and then claim on appeal that he or she was prevented from pursuing that defense theory.

Samuel D. Schirer, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause, and Ryan Eddinger, of same office, was with him on the brief for appellant.

Sheryl L. Lidtke, deputy district attorney, argued the cause, and Jerome A. Gorman, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with her on the brief for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by JOHNSON, J. MICHAEL J. MALONE, Senior Judge, assigned.

OPINION

Johnson, J.:

A jury convicted Deborah Meeks of second-degree intentional murder for fatally shooting her former partner, Wesley Smith, as he sat on a bed in his home. She did not deny that she pointed a handgun at Smith and pulled the trigger several times after the weapon initially malfunctioned and that the weapon ultimately discharged a round into Smith's chest. But she claimed to suffer from battered woman syndrome caused by Smith's many years of abusive and manipulative mistreatment.

Meeks appealed to the Court of Appeals, claiming that the district court erred in two ways: (1) By refusing her request to establish a claim of self-defense based on battered woman syndrome; and, (2) by granting the State's motion in limine barring evidence of specific instances of Smith's abusive and violent acts toward her. The Court of Appeals affirmed Meeks' conviction, finding that the district court did not err in excluding evidence of battered woman [301 Kan. 115] syndrome because

Page 767

Meeks had not asserted a claim of self-defense at trial, and, alternatively, that the evidence presented at trial would not have supported a claim of self-defense. State v. Meeks, 293 P.3d 168, 2013 WL 310337, at *4-6 (Kan. App. 2013) (unpublished opinion). We granted review based on Meeks' representation in her petition for review that she had attempted to rely on a claim of self-defense in the trial court, which would have allowed this court to consider the panel's holding that this court's decision in State v. Stewart, 243 Kan. 639, ...


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