Whether a sentence is illegal within the meaning of K.S.A.
22-3504 is a question of law over which an appellate court
has unlimited review.
illegal sentence is defined as (1) a sentence imposed by a
court without jurisdiction; (2) a sentence that does not
conform to the applicable statutory provision, either in the
character or the term of the authorized punishment; or (3) a
sentence that is ambiguous concerning the time and manner in
which it is to be served.
Under the facts of this case, the district court did not err
in summarily denying defendant's motion.
from Wyandotte District Court; J. Dexter Burdette, judge.
E. Wells, of Jerry Wells Attorney-at-Law, of Lawrence, argued
the cause and was on the brief for appellant.
L. Lidtke, chief 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.
years after his convictions, Louis Cotton filed two pro se
motions entitled "motion to set aside a void
judgment." The district court summarily denied both as
untimely filed. Cotton acknowledges they are indeed too late
when considered as motions (1) to arrest judgment or (2) for
judgment of acquittal. So he asks this court to treat the
single motion at issue in this appeal as one to correct an
illegal sentence. While such a motion would be timely filed,
it is the wrong vehicle for bringing Cotton's particular
arguments. So we affirm the district court's summary
denial, albeit for a different reason.
and Procedural Background
September 13, 1988, Cotton pled guilty to three counts of
forgery. On November 4, 1988, a jury convicted him of one
count of aggravated burglary, one count of unlawful weapons
possession, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of
felony theft, and one count of first-degree murder. The
district court sentenced Cotton to 3 to 15 years for each
count of forgery, 15 to 60 years for aggravated burglary, 9
to 30 years for unlawful firearm possession, 45 years to life
for each count of aggravated robbery, 3 to 15 years for
felony theft, and 3 life sentences for first-degree murder.
We affirmed Cotton's convictions in his direct appeal to
this court in State v. Cotton, No. 63, 648 (Kan. May
25, 1990) (unpublished opinion).
2014, 26 years after his convictions, Cotton filed with the
district court two pro se motions entitled "motion to
set aside a void judgment." Cotton concedes the first,
filed October 20th, is not properly before this court because
it duplicates a motion the district court denied in 2002.
second motion, filed December 4, included eight arguments for
why his "convictions should not have been
sustained." He claimed the district court erred when it:
(1) allowed the prosecution to repeatedly ask questions of
Cotton regarding the credibility of witnesses and then attack
him for those answers; (2) lowered the burden of proof by
incorrectly defining "deliberately" and
"premeditation" in the jury instructions; (3)
allowed the prosecution to lower its burden of proof when it
defined "reasonable doubt" in closing arguments;
(4) did not require the prosecutor to prove "corpus
delicti, " thereby lowering the burden of proof; (5)
allowed the prosecution to "express judicial approval of
the [p]rosecution's case"; (6) allowed the
prosecution to state facts not in evidence; (7) allowed the
prosecution to "put forth evidence at trial that a death
was from a 'homicide'"; and (8) allowed
cumulative errors that prejudiced the defendant's ability
to obtain a fair trial.
district court's memorandum decision summarily denied
Cotton's motion because, however ...