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State v. Murray

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 31, 2015


Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; R. WAYNE LAMPSON, judge.




1. Under our holding in State v. Murray, 293 Kan. 1051, 271 P.3d 739 (2012), if a district court violates K.S.A. 22-3302 by proceeding with a criminal case even though a competency evaluation was ordered but the defendant's competency never judicially determined, a meaningful retrospective competency hearing can rectify the procedural error.

2. 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 expert and nonexpert trial witnesses.

3. 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.

Gerald E. Wells, of Jerry Wells Attorney-at-Law, of Lawrence, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Jerome A. Gorman, district attorney, argued the cause, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was with him on the brief for appellee.


Page 1159


In State v. Murray, 293 Kan. 1051, 271 P.3d 739 (2012) ( Murray I ), we remanded this case for a determination of Randall A. Murray's motion to correct an illegal sentence. In his motion, he argued the district court lacked jurisdiction to convict him because it failed to suspend proceedings after ordering a competency examination in the underlying criminal case. On remand, the district court determined: (1) a competency hearing had not been conducted; (2) a retrospective competency hearing was feasible; and (3) Murray had been competent when tried and convicted. Murray now argues the district court on remand exceeded this court's mandate and, alternatively, that the district court erred in determining the retrospective competency hearing was feasible.

Facts and Procedural History

The State charged Murray in February 1983 with felony murder and aggravated robbery for holding up a gas station and shooting the cashier. Prior to trial, Murray filed a motion to determine competency. Under K.S.A. 22-3302(1), proceedings " shall be suspended and a hearing conducted to determine the competency of the defendant" when " the judge before whom the case is pending finds that there is reason to believe that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial." The district court found " good cause" to grant Murray's motion the same day it was filed, and the court ordered Dr. William Reese to examine Murray. But in Murray's case, while Dr. Reese performed a competency evaluation, the record does not reflect that the district court conducted the statutorily mandated competency hearing. Nevertheless, the case proceeded to trial where a jury convicted Murray on May 25, 1983, of felony murder and aggravated robbery. Murray received a life sentence for murder and a consecutive sentence of 15 years to life for aggravated robbery.

After an unsuccessful direct appeal and a number of unsuccessful collateral challenges,

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Murray filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in 2009. He argued the district court's failure to conduct a competency hearing deprived it of jurisdiction to convict and sentence him. The district court summarily dismissed his motion, and Murray appealed to this court.

On appeal, this court held a district court loses jurisdiction if it proceeds without a competency evaluation and hearing when statutorily mandated. Murray I, 293 Kan. at 1054; see State v. Davis, 281 Kan. 169, 180, 130 P.3d 69 (2006). Since Murray alleged that was what occurred in his case, this court remanded

" to determine whether his factual assertion that he never received a competency hearing is accurate. Significantly, the State has not argued otherwise so far. On remand, in order to effectively contest Murray's assertion (and presumably his willingness to take the stand and swear that his assertion is the truth), the State must come forward with evidence to fill in the gaps in the reconstructed record to show that a competency hearing occurred. If the district court determines that Murray did not, in fact, receive a competency hearing under K.S.A. 22-3302(1), then the statute and our holding in Davis will compel it to grant relief." Murray I, 293 Kan. at 1055.

On remand, the district court conducted an evidentiary hearing. The hearing included the testimony of Dr. Reese, the prosecutor, Murray's attorney, and Murray.

Dr. Reese indicated he had no memory of his examination of Murray, so he had little to add beyond his report. He read his report to the court into the record:

" [O]n March 28, . . . 1983, I concluded my initial evaluation appraisal of Randall Murray. It is my observation that Randall Murray does not warrant further evaluation. I am satisfied he is competent to stand trial. I'm aware he has certain emotional liabilities; however, he sufficiently understands and comprehends the charges against him . .., the need to communicate with his attorney . .., and the consequences of his behavior . . . . I do not recommend further ...

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