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State v. Banks

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 21, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Antwon D. Banks, Sr., Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. A conviction of even the gravest offense can be based entirely on circumstantial evidence. In a prosecution for premeditated first-degree murder, the premeditation element is most often proved by circumstantial evidence. A jury is permitted to infer premeditation from the established circumstances of the case, provided that the inference is a reasonable one.

         2. Convictions based entirely upon circumstantial evidence can present a special challenge to appellate courts because the circumstances in question must themselves be proved and cannot be inferred or presumed from other circumstances. Where the State relies upon inference stacking, i.e., where the State asks the jury to make a presumption based upon other presumptions, it has not carried its burden to present sufficient evidence to sustain a criminal conviction.

         3. Impermissible inference stacking is not present where different circumstances are used to support separate inferences or where multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence separately support a single inference.

         4. In a criminal prosecution, prosecutors are allowed to craft arguments that include reasonable inferences to be drawn from circumstantial evidence, so long as the circumstances have themselves been proved, rather than having been presumed from other circumstances.

         5. A trial court violates a criminal defendant9;s fundamental right to a fair trial if the court excludes relevant, admissible, and noncumulative evidence that is an integral part of the theory of defense. But the right to present a defense is subject to the established rules of evidence and procedure.

         6. The proponent of evidence is required to lay a foundation for its admissibility. The foundation for admitting a writing requires that it meet the authentication requirements of K.S.A. 60-464.

         Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; Bruce C. Brown, judge.

          Corrine E. Gunning, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Lance J. Gillett, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Marc Bennett, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          Johnson, J.

         Antwon D. Banks, Sr., directly appeals his jury trial conviction for the premeditated first-degree murder of Daniel Flores. He contends that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support the conviction, that the prosecutor committed reversible error during closing argument, and that the district court violated Banks9; right to present a defense by excluding certain photographs. We affirm the conviction.

         Factual and Procedural Overview

         The victim, Flores, worked at Steckline Communications (Steckline), which operated a radio station in Wichita, where Banks9; former girlfriend, Lisa Bryce, was the office and human resources manager. Flores9; deadly encounter with Banks appears to have been an ill-fated happenstance.

         Banks and Bryce had dated sporadically for a little over a year before Banks moved in with Bryce in December 2013. Banks9; suspicions of infidelity soured the relationship, and by February 2014, Bryce told Banks to move out. Nevertheless, Banks continued to text or call Bryce, sometimes several times a day. He made multiple contacts with Bryce on Sunday, February 9, 2014, the date of the murder.

         At some point on February 9, 2014, Banks hatched a plan to break into the Steckline building and "mess with" Bryce9;s computer. Banks shared the idea with his friend, Dartonja Looney, who advised Banks to disturb multiple offices inside the building to avoid the appearance that Bryce was the targeted victim. About 8 p.m. that evening, Banks was driven to a parking lot directly across the street from the Steckline building by Camishia Ford, another woman he was dating at the time, on the pretense that he was going to retrieve his stolen wallet.

         Surveillance cameras revealed that Banks sat in Ford9;s vehicle for 14 minutes before exiting and crossing the street to the Steckline building. He returned to Ford9;s car 41 minutes later. Ford said that Banks was breathing heavily when he returned to the car carrying an object wrapped in a jacket or hoodie, saying they needed to leave. Banks related that he had been in the basement of the Steckline building and had heard two men fighting upstairs. He said that he had bumped into a fire extinguisher which he said was the object in his possession, albeit Ford could not verify the identity of the object.

         The next morning, Monday, February 10, 2014, about 7 a.m., the first employee to arrive at the station, Blake Cripps, discovered that Bryce9;s office and the office of station owner, Greg Steckline, had been disturbed. Cripps texted a picture of the damage to Bryce, who said she would arrive soon to report the incident.

         At approximately 7:45 a.m., Flores9; immediate supervisor, Phillip Padilla, arrived and checked the basement area. Padilla had difficulty opening the door because it was blocked by Flores9; body. Upon discovering the body, Padilla called 911 at 7:58 a.m.

         On arrival, the investigators found Flores lying flat on his face, with his arms underneath his body, just inside the basement door. There was blood spatter on several walls, with a large area of blood on the wall close to the floor, near Flores9; head. Five of Flores9; teeth were found nearby, two of which were under the body. Flores was pronounced dead at the scene.

         Investigators also discovered that one of the fire extinguishers was missing, a wall had damage that appeared consistent with the bottom of a fire extinguisher, and a service tag from a fire extinguisher was on the floor near Flores. The missing fire extinguisher was never found.

         Investigators found a critical clue on the basement walls. Someone had written violent, racist, and misogynistic messages directed towards Bryce and had drawn a stick person in a noose with the words "Hang nigga!" Bryce told police that the writing did not look like Banks' handwriting but that the content of the messages, the poor ...


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