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State v. Evans

Supreme Court of Kansas

March 10, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellant,
v.
Dustin Alex Evans, Appellee.

          SYLLABUS

         Applying the analysis adopted in State v. Hardy, 305 Kan.__, __ P.3d __ (No. 110, 982, this day decided), it is held that the district court properly granted Evans statutory immunity pursuant to K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21-5231.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 51 Kan.App.2d 1043, 360 P.3d 1086 (2015).

          Appeal from Johnson District Court; Thomas Kelly Ryan, judge.

          Shawn E. Minihan, assistant district attorney, Stephen M. Howe, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellant.

          Thomas J. Bath, Jr., and Tricia A. Bath, of Bath & Edmonds, P.A., of Overland Park, were on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          Stegall, J.

         After a night of drinking, Dustin Alex Evans and his neighbor, Jose Luis Pena, Jr., were conversing alone in Evans' garage when they agreed to compete in some "mixed martial arts" or "jiu jitsu style" wrestling. They decided to "grapple" for fun until one of them "tap[ped] out." After Evans pulled a wrestling mat out onto his driveway, the two began a friendly wrestling match. The match eventually soured, although Evans and Pena disagree about the cause. Evans claimed that Pena put his hand over Evans' mouth and tried to suffocate him, but Pena said Evans got upset for no reason. After Evans broke free from Pena's grasp, he got up and went into his garage, claiming that Pena tried to kill him. The parties dispute whether Pena followed Evans into the garage and whether Pena threatened to kill Evans.

         Once inside his garage, Evans grabbed a katana-style sword and stabbed Pena in the abdomen. Evans asserted that Pena advanced on him in the garage, threatening to kill Evans. Pena claimed that he never entered Evans' garage, but crime scene photographs showed an apparent blood trail beginning inside the garage and extending through the garage onto the driveway, front porch steps, and across the street. Pena also claimed that he used his arms to deflect Evans' first two attempts to stab him. According to Pena, Evans stabbed his forearm before he deflected another strike with his arms, and then he felt a strike to his chest. The parties later stipulated that the operating surgeon observed no injuries to Pena's arms and that his medical records did not reflect such injuries. Evans called 911 to report the stabbing. When law enforcement arrived at the scene, Evans told them that he had stabbed Pena in self-defense.

         The State charged Evans with aggravated battery. After the preliminary hearing, Evans moved for a grant of immunity pursuant to K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21-5231. The district court gave the parties the option of conducting an evidentiary hearing and/or submitting exhibits for the court's consideration, and both the State and Evans submitted numerous stipulated exhibits; only Evans presented testimony at a hearing. One of the law enforcement officers Evans called to testify stated that when he interviewed Pena at the hospital, Pena said he had followed Evans into the garage. But when the officer met with Pena on the day of the preliminary hearing, Pena claimed for the first time that he never entered the garage that night and that Evans had struck him three times, injuring his arm.

         The district court weighed the evidence and found that Pena's testimony-which changed multiple times and did not comport with the blood trail evidence-was not credible. Thus it granted Evans immunity and dismissed the charges.

         The State appealed. Applying the approach adopted in State v. Hardy, 51 Kan.App.2d 296, 347 P.3d 222 (2015), rev'd 305 Kan.__, __ P.3d __ (No. 110, 982, this day decided), a majority of a Court of Appeals' panel reversed the district court's decision and reinstated the complaint. State v. Evans, 51 Kan.App.2d 1043, 1054, 360 P.3d 1086 (2015). The majority held that "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." 51 Kan.App.2d 1043, Syl. ¶ 4. Under this standard, the majority concluded that "if the judge had viewed the evidence in a light favoring the State, it was sufficient to find probable cause to rebut Evans' claim of immunity and submit the case to a jury." 51 Kan.App.2d at 1053-54. We granted Evans' petition for review.

         Our decision in State v. Hardy, 305 Kan.__, __ P.3d __ (No. 110, 982, this day decided), controls our decision in Evans' case. In Hardy we held:

"1. Upon a motion for immunity pursuant to K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 21-5231, the district court must consider the totality of the circumstances, weigh the evidence before it without deference to the State, and determine whether the State has carried its burden to establish probable cause that ...

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