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State v. Jones

Supreme Court of Kansas

August 4, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
Jason A. Jones, Appellant.


         1. The Confrontation Clause applies to testimonial statements and prohibits the admission of such statements by a witness who does not appear at trial, unless the witness is unavailable to testify and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination.

         2. A certificate of analysis showing the results of a forensic examination that has been performed on substances seized by police is testimonial. Because the certificate is testimonial, the prosecution cannot introduce the certificate without presenting it through the in-court testimony of a witness who can swear to the truth of the statements contained in the certificate.

         3. The Confrontation Clause does not permit the prosecution to introduce a forensic laboratory report containing a testimonial certification, created to prove a fact at a criminal trial, through the in-court testimony of an analyst who did not sign the certification or personally perform or observe the performance of the test reported in the certification.

         4. Harmless error review applies to issues pertaining to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. An appellate court employs a de novo review of the entire record when determining whether a fundamental failure in a trial is harmless.

         5. A harmless error is one that did not affect a party's substantial rights, meaning it will not or did not affect a trial's outcome. When an error infringes upon a party's federal constitutional right, a court will declare the error harmless only where the party benefiting from the error persuades the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the error complained of will not or did not affect the outcome of the trial in light of the entire record, i.e., proves there is no reasonable possibility that the error affected the verdict.

         6. An appellate court reviews a trial court's determination regarding whether hearsay is admissible under a statutory exception for an abuse of discretion.

         7. Judicial discretion is abused if judicial action (1) is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, i.e., if no reasonable person would have taken the view adopted by the trial court; (2) is based on an error of law, i.e., if the discretion is guided by an erroneous legal conclusion; or (3) is based on an error of fact, i.e., if substantial competent evidence does not support a factual finding on which a prerequisite conclusion of law or the exercise of discretion is based.

         8. When hearsay is admitted under the coconspirator exception, it must satisfy three standards: (1) the out-of-court statement about which the person will testify must have been made by one of the coconspirators; (2) the statement of the coconspirator must have been made while the conspiracy was in progress; and (3) the statement must be relevant to the plan or its subject matter.

         9. Generally, litigants and their counsel bear the responsibility for objecting to inadequate findings of fact and conclusions of law in order to give the trial court the opportunity to correct such inadequacies, and, when there is no objection, omissions in findings are not considered on appeal.

         10. When there is no objection to a trial court's findings, an appellate court presumes that the trial court found all facts necessary to support its judgment.

         11. Statements by coconspirators are not testimonial and do not implicate the Confrontation Clause.

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

          Kristen B. Patty, of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

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



         Jason A. Jones appeals his convictions of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated kidnapping. This is a companion case to State v. Sean, No. 114, 417, an appeal from convictions arising out of the same series of events presented in this case. Jones argues (1) his right to confront witnesses under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was violated when forensic testing results came into evidence without Jones having the opportunity to cross-examine the laboratory analyst who performed the tests; and (2) certain hearsay statements were erroneously admitted by the trial court. Because we conclude that any error on the part of the trial court was harmless, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural Background

         In January of 2013, Jason A. Jones worked at an automotive shop owned by Dang Sean. Shawn Lindsey had been Sean's business partner in the shop until sometime in 2012, and he owed Sean money. On Friday, January 11, 2013, Sean directed Anthony Garza to pick up Lindsey and bring him to the shop, apparently to discuss the debt. Sean had met Garza a year earlier when Garza sold him a computer. Since that meeting, Garza had spent time at Sean's auto shop because Garza's girlfriend worked there. Garza, accompanied by his nephew Reuben Carrion, Jr., and his friend Aaron Stricker, drove to Lindsey's home.

         Lindsey's girlfriend, Chelsea Bernhard, was home with Lindsey when the three men arrived. Bernhard testified that Lindsey talked with Garza and then Lindsey told her that he had to go to Sean's auto shop.

         Sean, Jones, and three other shop employees-Will Coleman, Justin Jones (Justin) and Phomphikak Phouthalaksa (Air)-were at the shop when Garza and Lindsey arrived around 7 p.m. Sean and Lindsey began discussing the debt. Shortly after their conversation began, Sean began punching and kicking Lindsey and knocked him to the floor.

         After the beating, Sean told Jones to take Lindsey, along with Garza and Stricker, to look for Lindsey's truck. While not entirely clear from the record, Sean may have wanted the truck as some type of collateral for the debt. The men left the shop, and Sean left shortly thereafter.

         Garza testified that while the men were driving in Jones' car looking for the truck, he spoke to Justin on the phone, who told him to zip-tie Lindsey and not let him go when they returned to the shop. Coleman testified that when the men returned to the shop, Jones was on his telephone and informed the person on the other end of the call that the men still did not have the truck. Coleman then heard Jones tell the others to make sure Lindsey did not leave.

         Sean, carrying a duffel bag, arrived back at the shop shortly after the men had returned from looking for Lindsey's truck. According to Coleman, Sean was also carrying a gun and a syringe. Sean ordered someone to zip-tie Lindsey's hands together. Coleman stated that someone then zip-tied Lindsey's hands.

         Garza noticed that Justin was holding a bag of methamphetamine and Jones was holding a spoon. He estimated that the bag contained a quarter ounce of methamphetamine-35 times the amount of a typical single dose. Garza heard Justin and Jones discuss needing to find a torch to melt the methamphetamine. Garza observed Jones pour the methamphetamine into the spoon while Sean was holding a syringe and needle.

         According to Garza, Justin held Lindsey's right arm while Sean injected Lindsey. Lindsey pleaded for them to stop and promised to pay Sean back. After the injection, Air approached with an electric fence, and Justin and Jones wrapped the fence around Lindsey. Jones gave a car battery starter to Air, who connected the battery to the fence but did not turn it on.

         Sean approached Lindsey with a firearm and an air soft gun. Sean began shooting Lindsey with pellets from the air soft gun, and Garza testified that Lindsey began shaking violently. Sean pointed the firearm at Lindsey and then shot pellets from the air gun at the battery charger in a failed attempt to turn it on. Garza eventually removed the fence.

         After he removed the fence, Garza heard someone say that Lindsey was "almost gone" and "about to go." Sean told Garza to cut the zip ties at Lindsey's feet so Lindsey could walk to the truck because they were going to take him to the hospital. Jones and Sean led Lindsey to a black Silverado truck and loaded him in. After loading Lindsey, Sean told Garza to "get the ...

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