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State v. Ford

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 31, 2015

STATE OF KANSAS, Appellee,
v.
HAROLD GLEN FORD, JR., Appellant

Page 1144

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Page 1145

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Page 1146

Appeal from Johnson District Court; PETER V. RUDDICK, judge.

Reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS

BY THE COURT

1. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the criminal prosecution of a defendant who is not competent to stand trial.

2. Under K.S.A. 22-3302(1), if a district court finds a reason to believe a criminal defendant is not competent to stand trial, the proceedings must be suspended and a hearing conducted to determine the defendant's competency.

3. A procedural competency claim is based on a district court's alleged failure to hold a competency hearing or an adequate competency hearing, while a substantive competency claim is founded on the allegation that an individual was tried and convicted while, in fact, incompetent.

4. That part of the holdings in State v. Murray, 293 Kan. 1051, 1053-54, 271 P.3d 739 (2012), and State v. Davis, 281 Kan. 169, 174-75, 180, 130 P.3d 69 (2006), indicating that a failure to comply with K.S.A. 22-3302 is jurisdictional is disapproved. Accordingly, a motion to correct an illegal sentence is foreclosed as a mechanism for correcting a procedural competency claim.

5. In a challenge to a criminal conviction based on a procedural competency claim arising from an alleged violation of K.S.A. 22-3302, a movant bears the initial burden to prevent summary dismissal by establishing, from the record or other evidence, there was reason to believe that he or she was incompetent to stand trial and that the requirements of K.S.A. 22-3302 had not been satisfied. If the movant meets this initial burden, the burden shifts to the State to prove compliance with the mandate of K.S.A. 22-3302 to suspend proceedings, evaluate competence, and conduct a competency hearing.

6. In a proceeding challenging whether a district court complied with K.S.A. 22-3302, a judicial finding that the State met its burden of proving compliance is reviewed on appeal for substantial competent evidence. On the other hand, a district court's finding that the State failed to meet its burden is a negative finding. As such, an appellate court will overturn the decision only if the district court arbitrarily disregarded undisputed evidence or relied upon an extrinsic consideration such as bias, passion, or prejudice.

7. If a district court failed to comply with K.S.A. 22-3302 during pretrial or trial proceedings, the State may at a later date request a retrospective competency hearing, which may be able to rectify the previous procedural error. The State must establish that a retrospective competency hearing is feasible-- i.e., whether the available evidence is such that a retrospective hearing could be meaningful. Where a retrospective competency hearing and determination is not feasible, the previous procedural violation compels reversal of a defendant's conviction because there can be no assurance that a defendant was not tried while incompetent.

8. To determine whether a retrospective competency hearing is feasible, the district court should consider (1) the passage of time, (2) the availability of contemporaneous medical evidence, including medical records and prior competency determinations, (3) any statements by the defendant in the trial record, and (4) the availability of individuals who were in a position to interact with defendant before and during trial, including the trial judge, counsel for both the State and defendant, jail officials, and both expert and nonexpert trial witnesses.

9. Appellate courts apply an abuse of discretion standard when reviewing a district court's determination of whether a retrospective competency hearing is feasible. A judicial decision amounts to an abuse of discretion when a decision is (1) arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, (2) based on an error of law, or (3) based on an error of fact.

10. Once a district court determines a retrospective competency hearing is feasible, the court must determine the ultimate question of whether the criminal defendant was competent during the underlying proceeding.

11. When a movant files a procedural challenge arising from a district court's failure to comply with K.S.A. 22-3302, the movant must be present at a retrospective competency hearing unless he or she waives that right.

Richard Ney, of Ney & Adams, of Wichita, argued the cause, and Krystal L. Vokins, of Cornwell & Vokins, of Olathe, was on the briefs for appellant.

Steven J. Obermeier, senior deputy district attorney, argued the cause, and Stephen M. Howe, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.

OPINION

Page 1147

LUCKERT, J.

Consistent with due process protections imposed by the United States Supreme Court, if a district court has a reason to believe a defendant is incompetent to stand trial, K.S.A. 22-3302 requires the court to suspend criminal proceedings and conduct a competency hearing. In 1992, a district court presiding over Harold Glen Ford, Jr.'s, criminal case--in proceedings we will refer to as Ford I --ordered and received a competency evaluation. But there is no record of a subsequent competency hearing. Yet the Ford I court did not suspend proceedings and instead accepted Ford's guilty plea and sentenced him.

More recently--in proceedings we will refer to as Ford II --Ford filed a motion in district court to correct an illegal sentence, arguing the Ford I court lacked jurisdiction to convict him. The Ford II court conducted a retrospective competency hearing, found that Ford had been competent when he entered his plea, and denied Ford's motion. Ford appealed from that decision. His appeal and the State's arguments raise issues regarding: (1) whether a motion to correct an illegal sentence can be used to attack a conviction and (2) whether the district court appropriately applied State v. Murray, 293 Kan. 1051, 271 P.3d 739 (2012) ( Murray I ), and State v. Davis, 281 Kan. 169, 130 P.3d 69 (2006), when it determined a retrospective competency hearing was feasible and could rectify the original error of failing to comply with K.S.A. 22-3302.

We hold that future movants cannot use a motion to correct an illegal sentence to claim a violation of K.S.A. 22-3302. We also hold that under the facts of this case a meaningful retrospective competency hearing is feasible and can rectify the district court's failure to comply with K.S.A. 22-3302 during Ford I. But a movant has a right to be present at a retrospective competency hearing. Because Ford was not present for the Ford II hearing and there is no indication he waived his right to be present, we reverse and remand for additional proceedings.

Facts and Procedural Background

In 1992, after the State charged Ford with first-degree murder (or felony murder in the alternative), aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary, he filed a motion under K.S.A. 22-3302 to determine his competency to stand trial. In the Ford I proceedings, a district court granted the motion the next day, finding " there is reason to believe that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial in this matter and/or unable to aid in his defense." On November 19, 1992, Dr. Robert Reitz of the Johnson County Mental Health Center sent Ford's completed mental health evaluation to the parties and to the court. He concluded:

" In the opinion of this examiner, Mr. [Ford] is currently competent to proceed and to stand trial as defined by K.S.A. 22-3301. He appears to appreciate the seriousness of his current situation and to be capable of informing his attorney of his desires regarding his defense. There is no evidence of a mental disease or defect which would interfere with [his] ability to participate fully in the legal process."

Page 1148

The district court file-stamped the evaluation on November 23, 1992.

Ford's case proceeded. On February 12, 1993, the district court accepted Ford's guilty pleas to felony murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary. Subsequently, the district court sentenced Ford to life imprisonment for felony murder, 15 years to life for aggravated robbery, and 5 to 20 years for aggravated burglary. Each sentence was to run consecutively.

Approximately 17 years later, Ford filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, leading to the Ford II proceedings in the district court and this subsequent appeal. He alleged " a hearing was never held and [he] was never examined by a mental health professional" despite the Ford I court's order to determine his competency. Because the Ford I court failed to suspend proceedings and conduct a competency hearing as required by K.S.A. 22-3302, he argued his conviction and sentence were void for lack of jurisdiction. The State responded, attaching a written report of Ford's 1992 mental health evaluation. The State did not, however, point to anything in the court file or record that indicated Ford had received a competency hearing.

The Ford II court ordered a hearing on Ford's motion. Counsel represented Ford at the hearing, but Ford was not personally present. His attorney pointed out that the docket sheet in the Ford I proceedings did not include a specific mention of a competency hearing. Further, neither the court reporter notes nor a transcript could be located for Ford's preliminary hearing and at least one other hearing. The available transcripts did not contain a judicial determination of Ford's competency.

The State presented Ford's 1992 competency evaluation and the testimony of Ford's defense attorney and the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Ford's case. Ford's defense attorney testified that the evaluation would have been sent to the parties and the court. He further testified:

" I am sure that before we proceeded to the next phase of the litigation, there would have either been--either at that time I may have withdrawn my motion to determine competency or we would have waived any further addressing of the competency issue once we received determination by a competent ...

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