Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; DAVID J. KAUFMAN, judge.
BY THE COURT
In considering a motion for self-defense immunity under K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5231, a district court must conduct an evidentiary hearing, unless the parties otherwise stipulate to the factual record. The rules of evidence apply. At the hearing, the State has the burden to establish probable cause that the defendant acted without legal justification in using force. The district court must view the evidence in a light favoring the State, meaning conflicts in the evidence must be resolved to the State's benefit and against a finding of immunity.
Matt J. Maloney, assistant district attorney, Marc Bennett, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellant.
Richard Ney, of Ney & Adams, of Wichita, for appellee.
Before SCHROEDER, P.J., BUSER and ATCHESON, JJ.
By statute, Kansas extends immunity from criminal
prosecution to persons acting in self-defense. K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5231. The
statute, however, fails to describe how district courts should go about deciding a request for that protection. The Kansas Supreme Court has held the State must establish probable cause to show that a defendant has not acted in lawful self-defense. State v. Ultreras, 296 Kan. 828, 845, 295 P.3d 1020 (2013). But the court expressly declined to outline the procedures for presenting or resolving immunity claims. This case requires us to fill that void. Drawing cues from Ultreras, we find a district court should conduct an evidentiary hearing procedurally comparable to a preliminary examination, so the rules of evidence apply and conflicting evidence should be resolved in favor of the State. Based on those standards, the Sedgwick County District Court erroneously granted self-defense immunity to Defendant Marlon T. Hardy. We, therefore, reverse and remand to the district court with directions that the charge of aggravated battery against Hardy be reinstated for further proceedings.
Factual and Procedural History
What we consider amounts to a matter of statutory interpretation and, thus, a question of law. State v. Guder, 293 Kan. 763, 765, 267 P.3d 751 (2012). Our review owes no particular deference to the district court's determination on how to handle Hardy's motion for self-defense immunity. In re Care & Treatment of Quary, 50 Kan.App.2d 296, 301, 324 P.3d 331 (2014). And, given the issue, the factual circumstances out of which the criminal charges arose are largely irrelevant, save for some general context.
Hardy and another man stopped at a party to pick up a couple of female acquaintances. Some other partygoers came out and approached the convertible in which Hardy was riding. There are multiple versions of what happened. The gist seems to be that Javier Flores, the putative victim of the aggravated battery, approached the car and without provocation punched Hardy in the face several times. Hardy picked up a handgun from inside the car and fired a shot, striking Flores in the shoulder. Witnesses offered differing accounts as to whether Flores continued to threaten Hardy after punching him, whether Flores was being physically restrained when Hardy fired, and whether other partygoers menaced Hardy.
The State charged Hardy with aggravated battery, a severity level 4 person felony violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5413. After he was bound over for trial at a preliminary examination, Hardy filed a motion for self-defense immunity, as provided in K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5231(a). The district court convened a hearing on the motion and wound up spending much of the time with the prosecutor and Hardy's lawyer trying to sort out what ought to be considered in deciding the request for immunity. The district court ultimately received and reviewed the transcript of the preliminary examination at which Flores and Yuliana Mejia testified, two police reports, transcripts of tape recorded police interviews with Hardy and with Mejia, and a few other documents. The district court heard no witnesses as part of the motion hearing, although neither side asked to present live testimony. In short, the district court held a nonevidentiary hearing and considered a good deal of material that would have been inadmissible at the preliminary examination or at trial.
Two days later, the district court made a detailed bench ruling granting Hardy's motion for immunity and dismissing the complaint. Given the ruling, the district court obviously recognized factual conflicts relevant to self-defense as portrayed in the materials submitted at the hearing. The district court also plainly resolved at least some of those conflicts in deciding the motion and did so favorably to Hardy, although the ruling doesn't describe those determinations with ...