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State v. Wilson

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 6, 2018

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Matthew D. Wilson, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         When a defendant acts with the requisite mens rea, and that act sets events in motion that lead to a victim's death, the defendant will be criminally liable for the death unless an unforeseeable event supersedes the defendant's act and becomes the sole cause of death, thus breaking the chain of proximate causation.

          Appeal from Riley District Court; John F. Bosch, judge.

          Carl F.A. Maughan, of Maughan Law Group LC, of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Barry R. Wilkerson, county attorney, argued the cause, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was with him on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          STEGALL, J.

         One night, Matthew Wilson broke into an apartment and began shooting the occupants. Inside the apartment, Joel Solano awoke, grabbed a gun, and hid in his room. Michael Lowery fled from Wilson into Solano's room. Mistaking Lowery for the shooter, Solano shot Lowery dead. Wilson later pled no contest to premeditated murder for Lowery's death, and we affirmed his sentence on direct appeal.

         Wilson now argues the district court erred when it summarily denied his postsentence plea withdrawal motion. On appeal, Wilson claims there was an insufficient factual basis to support the elements of premeditated murder because he did not actually kill Lowery-Solano did. Wilson makes the related claim that if his first argument is correct, his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to recognize this fact and advise him accordingly. Finally, Wilson suggests that because the lower court essentially ignored these arguments when Wilson asserted them pro se below, a remand would be appropriate if the record is insufficient to permit us to conduct a meaningful review.

         We hold Wilson proximately caused Lowery's death by attacking those in the apartment, leading to Solano's foreseeable defensive response. Wilson-as an active shooter-created a deadly situation for the apartment's occupants, and Solano's shot was not an extraordinary intervening event that became the sole cause of Lowery's death. Because a factual basis supported the plea and a remand is unnecessary, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The underlying facts are not disputed. As this court recited in Wilson's first appeal:

"Dustin Ferguson and Joel Solano lived in an apartment directly across the hall from Wilson. Sometime around 2 a.m. on April 7, 2013, Ferguson returned to the apartment with Michael Lowery, Alexya Mailea, and Christine Kim after a night out in Aggieville. Around 4 a.m., Ferguson and his three guests opened the door to leave. They were met in the hallway by Wilson who immediately started shooting at them with a handgun.
"Ferguson, Mailea, and Kim were struck by bullets, and Ferguson pulled Mailea and Lowery back into the apartment while Kim fled down a flight of stairs. Wilson followed Kim and told her he was not going to kill her and that he was only 'there for the guys.' Wilson then returned to the apartment, shot his way through the locked front door, and entered.
"In the meantime, Lowery had run into Solano's bedroom where Solano had been sleeping with his fiancée and young daughter. Solano was awakened by the gunshots and retrieved his own handgun. Solano then shot Lowery when he came into the bedroom, mistaking him for an intruder.
"Ferguson escaped by jumping out of his bedroom window. He directed Mailea to follow him, but she was still in Ferguson's room when Wilson returned. As with Kim, Wilson assured Mailea that he was not going to kill her and that he was only 'there for the boys.' He also told her he was 'doing what he was doing' because Ferguson and Solano had too many loud parties in their apartment and that 'people deserved to get a good night's sleep.' Wilson then went to Solano's bedroom to look for the others.
"Wilson failed to enter Solano's bedroom because the door was blocked by Lowery's prone body. He ordered Solano to open the door and threatened to shoot his way into the room if Solano did not comply. Solano had heard Wilson tell Mailea he was 'there for the boys,' so he remained quiet, hoping Wilson would think no one was there. Wilson eventually gave up and left the apartment. Police took him into custody outside the building a few minutes later.
"Lowery died as a result of his gunshot wounds, while Ferguson, Mailea, and Kim were all hospitalized with serious injuries. Wilson pled no contest to one count of first-degree premeditated murder for Lowery's death, two counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder regarding Ferguson and Solano, and two counts of aggravated battery on ...

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