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State v. Chapman

Supreme Court of Kansas

April 28, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Jeffrey Wade Chapman, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. An appellate court reviews a trial court's decision on a motion to change venue under K.S.A. 22-2616(1) for an abuse of discretion.

         2. An abuse of discretion can occur in three ways—when the trial court makes an error of law; bases its decision on facts not supported by the evidence; or makes an arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable decision.

         3. Factors to be considered when determining whether a venue change is necessary under K.S.A. 22-2616(1) include: (a) the degree of publicity circulated throughout the community; (b) the degree the publicity circulated throughout areas to which venue could be changed; (c) the length of time from the dissemination of the publicity to the trial date; (d) the care exercised and ease encountered in jury selection; (e) the familiarity with the publicity and its resultant effects upon prospective jurors or trial jurors; (f) challenges exercised by the defendant in jury selection, both peremptory and for cause; (g) the connection of government officials with the release of the publicity; (h) the severity of the offense charged; and (i) the particular size of the area from which the prospective jurors are drawn.

         4. Error in the admission of evidence that does not implicate a defendant's constitutional rights is harmless if there is no reasonable probability the error affected the trial's outcome in light of the entire record.

         Appeal from Barton District Court; Ron Svaty, judge. Affirmed.

          Michelle A. Davis, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Kristafer R. Ailslieger, deputy solicitor general, argued the cause, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was with him on the brief for appellee.

          Biles, J.

         A jury convicted Jeffrey Chapman of first-degree murder. In this direct appeal from his conviction, he argues the trial court erred by denying repeated efforts to obtain a change of venue due to pretrial publicity and by permitting the State to cross-examine him about a text message he claims was hearsay and unduly prejudicial. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On November 12, 2011, hunters driving along a rural road in Barton County discovered Damon Galyardt's body lying in a ditch with a bullet wound to the chest. The police investigation led to Chapman, who knew Galyardt through a mutual friend. Chapman did not deny killing Galyardt.

         Chapman testified at trial that he went to Galyardt's residence the night before the body was discovered. Chapman claimed he shot Galyardt in self-defense when Galyardt threatened to kill him with a knife. Chapman testified he then ran from the house and fled in a waiting car being driven by a friend. He did not call the police or seek medical help for Galyardt, but he did ask someone to monitor a police/emergency scanner to find out if anyone had alerted the police.

         After learning nothing about emergency services being dispatched, Chapman returned to Galyardt's house and found him dead. Chapman said he left again before returning in a borrowed car to retrieve the body and dump it in the country. Driving back, Chapman threw blood-stained items from the car. He told a friend he had hit a dog and asked her to help clean blood from the car's back seat, purportedly from the dog.

         The State's evidence included testimony that Chapman had previously threatened to kill Galyardt several times in the presence of multiple people, had told Galyardt's girlfriend he was going to kill Galyardt and dump his body in the country, and had told Galyardt in a phone conversation that was overhead by another that he was going to kill him.

         Unpersuaded by Chapman's self-defense theory, the jury convicted him of first-degree premeditated murder. The district court imposed a hard 25 life sentence. Our jurisdiction is proper. See K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 22-3601(b)(3) (life sentence imposed).

         Change of Venue

         Chapman argues the district court erred denying his requests to change venue based on pretrial publicity about his background, a defense motion to remove or cover his provocative tattoo, and his family. Chapman contends this publicity created an atmosphere in Barton County that jeopardized his right to fair trial. We disagree.

         Additional Facts

         Chapman filed a pretrial motion for a change of venue relying solely on K.S.A. 22-2616(1), which provides an avenue for a change of venue if the district court is satisfied there exists "so great a prejudice against the defendant that he cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial in that county." Chapman argued without a supporting affidavit that "almost, if not every, person interviewed by law enforcement . . . stated that they knew . . . Chapman and/or the Chapman family personally or by reputation in the community, " and "[i]ndividuals informed law enforcement that Mr. Galyardt's death was all over Facebook . . . ."

         Chapman included 11 news articles about the crime and one website post about his family's connection to crime within the community. Of those articles, one detailed preliminary hearing testimony, six briefly reported Chapman's arrest and a trial postponement, and four detailed the murder investigation but did not mention Chapman. At a hearing on the motion, Chapman presented no other evidence and the district court denied the venue change.

         Also around this time, Chapman filed a motion to permit him to cover or have removed a prominent tattoo on his neck that read "REDRUM" ("murder" spelled backwards). This motion sparked additional publicity, which Chapman characterized as an "out-of-control media storm" that "totally frustrated" the purpose of the motion. He noted the Daily Mail from the United Kingdom, the Huffington Post, and the New York Daily News had published articles about the tattoo. Chapman claimed more than 800 residents had made comments on the ...


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