"stand your ground" law in Kansas encompasses a
number of provisions providing for the use of force,
including deadly force, in defense of a person or property.
K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5220 et seq. The linchpin of this law is
its provision for self-defense immunity.
Kansas courts have developed a two-prong test-subjective and
objective-to determine whether a person's use of deadly
force was lawful. The subjective prong of the test requires a
showing that the person sincerely and honestly believed it
was necessary to kill or cause great bodily harm to defend
himself or herself. The objective prong requires a showing
that a reasonable person in such person's circumstances
would have perceived the use of deadly force in self-defense
K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5231 provides immunity to a person using
lawful force in defense of a person or property. Immunity
represents a far greater right than any encompassed by an
affirmative defense, which may be asserted during trial but
cannot stop a trial altogether. Immunity prevents a case from
going to trial.
considering a defendant's motion for immunity under
K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5231, the district court must consider
the totality of the circumstances, weigh the evidence before
it without deference to the State, and determine whether the
State has carried its burden to establish probable cause that
the defendant's use of force was not statutorily
overcome a defendant's self-defense immunity claim, the
State merely has to establish probable cause that the
defendant's use of force was not justified. Probable
cause has been defined as evidence sufficient for a person of
ordinary prudence and caution to conscientiously entertain a
reasonable belief of the defendant's guilt despite his
claim of justified use-of-force immunity. Stated another way,
the State must present evidence showing that an ordinarily
prudent and cautious person could believe that (1) a
reasonable person would not have believed deadly force was
necessary under the circumstances or (2) the defendant did
not honestly believe deadly force was necessary to protect
himself or herself from death or great bodily harm.
from Sedgwick District Court, John J. Kisner Jr., judge.
J. Maloney, assistant district attorney, Marc Bennett,
district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for
Patrick H. Dunn, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for
Powell, P.J., Atcheson and Bruns, JJ.
Collins was involved in a tragic and unfortunate fracas with
three unarmed women at the top of the stairs in his apartment
building, resulting in the death of one and serious injury to
another. Collins was charged with second-degree murder and
aggravated battery, but he claimed self-defense immunity
pursuant to K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5231. After an evidentiary
hearing, the district court granted Collins' motion for
immunity and dismissed the case. The State now appeals the
district court's grant of self-defense immunity, claiming
the district court erred because (1) Collins lacked the
reasonable belief that he needed to use deadly force to
prevent great bodily harm against himself and (2) Collins was
precluded from self-defense immunity because he was an
aggressor under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5226(c) and was not
subject to either safe harbor retreat exception. We agree
with the State that a grant of self-defense immunity was
unwarranted and reverse and remand for further proceedings.
and Procedural Background
2016, the State charged Collins with one count of intentional
second degree murder in violation of K.S.A. 2015 Supp.
21-5403(a)(1) and one count of reckless aggravated battery in
violation of K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5413(b)(2)(B). The charges
arose from two incidents on April 30, 2016, between Collins
and his neighbor's identical twin daughters that ended in
a fatal stab wound to Kayla Brown's neck and another to
her shoulder, a stab wound to Shayla Brown's bicep, and
multiple injuries to Collins' head and body. Prior to
trial, in July 2016, Collins filed a motion to dismiss and
requested an evidentiary hearing on his claim of self-defense
immunity from prosecution. In response, the district court
held a three-day evidentiary hearing where multiple witnesses
testified to the events that occurred on that tragic day in
April 30, 2016, Collins was returning home to his apartment
around 9 p.m. after getting ice cream with his two daughters.
As he drove to the front of his building, he saw an open
parking space and attempted to park his car. However, Collins
realized he could not park his car safely in the space
because the car next to the space had the driver's-side
door open and Shayla was standing inside of the open car door
talking to her friend, Luz Toral. It was disputed whether
Collins politely asked Shayla to move so that he could park
his car in that space. What was undisputed was that Collins
and Shayla got into a verbal argument that included an
exchange of racial and other insults. Eventually, Collins
parked elsewhere in the guest parking lot.
context, Collins is a 38-year-old, white male who is 5'
11" and weighs about 250 to 255 lbs. Shayla is a
22-year-old black female who is 4' 11" and weighs
about 113 lbs.; her identical twin Kayla was the same height
as Shayla but weighed nearly 10 pounds less. Toral is a white
female, who is about 5' 3" and weighs about 180 lbs.
parking his car, Collins walked towards Shayla and Toral
while his two daughters walked behind him. Another argument
started between Collins and Toral that led to the two pushing
each other back and forth. As this was occurring,
Collins' 15-year-old daughter took his 8-year-old
daughter's hand and went to the closest apartment
building. Shayla and Kayla became involved, and eventually a
physical fight broke out between Collins, the three girls,
and a few others. Trishall Dear, the twins' mother, heard
the commotion from inside her apartment and ran down to see
what was happening. Dear attempted to break up the fight, but
she was hit by Collins, prompting her to hit him back.
Ultimately, Dear was able to break up the fight. This first
altercation lasted about five to ten minutes.
told Collins to go to his apartment, and he complied. Collins
lived in a second floor apartment beneath Dear. Dear then
told Toral to leave, and Toral testified that she did so.
Shayla, Kayla, and their friend Coriaynia Porter, who was
involved in the altercation, went and sat in Kayla's car.
Dear planned to stay outside and let things calm down and
then go upstairs to her apartment to get a cigarette.
the altercation, Collins' older daughter called 911, and,
because the girls were scared, a neighbor led them back to
their apartment. Collins stated that when his daughters
arrived, his older daughter was on the phone with the police.
After the first altercation, Collins had injuries to his
head, which caused bruising and swelling to his eyes, ears,
and a bump on the right side of his face. He also had
scratches on his back and injuries to other parts of his
body. After five to ten minutes had passed, Collins realized
he did not have his eyeglasses and went outside to look for
them. Collins testified that he carries a pocket knife in his
pants pocket on a daily basis and that he had the knife on
him throughout the night, including during the first
altercation. The pocket knife is foldable with a
four-and-a-half-inch handle and four-inch blade.
witnesses gave conflicting testimony regarding the second
altercation. When Collins walked out of the only entrance to
his apartment building, Shayla and Dear were standing
outside. Porter testified that Kayla was sitting in the car
with her, and Shayla and Dear were outside talking near the
front entrance. Collins found his glasses on the ground and
walked back towards the entrance. Witnesses Brittany
Carr-Bidwell and Porter stated that, at this time, Collins
was muttering, and Carr-Bidwell told detectives that night
that he was repeatedly saying the "N-word" and
argument erupted between Collins and the twins. Three
witnesses testified that when Collins walked past Dear into
the building, he muttered something under his breath that
escalated the situation. Eva Bidwell-who saw the first
altercation while helping her son, Michael Bidwell, and
daughter-in-law, Carr-Bidwell, move out of a nearby
apartment-testified that when Collins muttered something to
Dear, Dear responded, "I wish you would touch me,"
and things escalated. Collins testified he did not say
anything to Dear when he walked past her and into the
stairwell but claimed the twins were yelling insults at him,
and he turned and told them it all could have been prevented
if they had let him park his car.
testified that she did not remember Collins saying anything
to her when he walked past her and that she opened the door
for Collins and followed him inside to make sure things
stayed calm. Dear testified that there was not a
confrontation between Collins and the twins before he walked
into the building but that her daughters followed her inside
to protect her. Shayla testified that she got out of the car
and followed her mother inside because she wanted to make
sure Dear was okay. Porter stated that Kayla got out of the
car after she saw Dear and Shayla go inside.
then walked up the nine steps to the second floor landing. As
he walked, Dear was about one to two steps behind him; and
Shayla and Kayla were about one step behind Dear. Shayla
testified that she did not remember Collins saying anything
outside or inside the stairwell, but several witnesses
testified that there was yelling and the three women followed
Collins quickly into the building. Michael testified that he
attempted to tell the women not to follow Collins into the
second floor landing, Collins turned towards the three women
and brandished his knife in his right hand at about shoulder
height with the blade out and pointing up. Collins testified
that he told the women to back off but did not advance
towards them or stab or swing the knife at them. Collins
stated that as he walked up the stairs, the women were
brushing his back, but he admitted no one had punched,
pushed, or smacked him. Dear testified that she blacked out
when she saw the knife. Shayla testified it was the first
time she saw that Collins had a knife and that he did not say
anything and started swinging the knife.
that, Shayla testified Collins' back might have been
turned and that she grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him
down, causing all four people to fall backwards down the
stairs. Collins was swinging his knife as everyone fell, and
Shayla stated that he hit her in the arm at that time.
Collins testified that, at one point, his knife hit something
that felt more like a stab than a cut and that he swung the
knife to defend himself as he fell down the stairs. At the
bottom of the stairs, Kayla hit a large window and several
people saw that she was bleeding from her neck and mouth.
Shayla testified she tried with both hands to get the knife
out of Collins' hand when she reached the bottom landing.
Eva testified she started yelling at Dear and Shayla to stop
and help Kayla due to her injuries. Dear testified ...