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State v. Haygood

Supreme Court of Kansas

November 21, 2018

State of Kansas, Appellee,
Donald Ramon Haygood, Appellant.


         1. Generally, evidence that a person committed a crime or civil wrong on a prior specified occasion is inadmissible to prove that person has a propensity to commit crimes or civil wrongs as a basis to support an inference that person committed the currently alleged crime or civil wrong on a specified occasion, unless such evidence is admissible as relevant to prove some other material fact, such as motive.

         2. Although motive is not an element of premeditated first-degree murder, evidence of its existence can be highly persuasive circumstantial evidence of guilt. Therefore, evidence of prior crimes or civil wrongs relevant to prove the defendant's motive to commit premeditated first-degree murder can be admissible under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455.

         3. An appellate review of a claim of prosecutorial error involves a two-step process. First, the appellate court must decide whether the challenged prosecutorial act falls outside the wide latitude afforded prosecutors to conduct the State's case and attempt to obtain a conviction in a manner that does not offend the defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. Only if that error is found, the appellate court moves to the second step of determining whether the error prejudiced the defendant's due process rights to a fair trial, utilizing the constitutional harmlessness inquiry from Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967). Prosecutorial error is harmless if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the error will not or did not affect the trial's outcome in light of the entire record, i.e., when there is no reasonable possibility the error contributed to the verdict.

         4. It is clearly improper for a prosecutor to state facts to the jury that have not been admitted into evidence, but prosecutors are allowed to craft arguments that include reasonable inferences to be drawn from the admitted evidence.

         5. A prosecutor who misstates the law to the jury has crossed the line, falling outside the wide latitude afforded prosecutors to conduct the State's case and attempt to obtain a conviction.

         6. The State has the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the charged crime, and it is error for a prosecutor to attempt to shift the burden of proof to the defendant. But a prosecutor does not shift the burden of proof by pointing out to the jury that there is a lack of evidence to support a defense theory.

         7. A prosecutor arguing to a jury is forbidden from accusing the defendant of lying, or otherwise offering a personal opinion as to the defendant's credibility. But when a case develops that turns on which of two conflicting stories is true, it may be reasonable to argue, based on the admitted evidence, that certain testimony is not believable.

         8. For instruction issues, the progression of analysis and corresponding standards of review on appeal are: (1) First, the appellate court should consider the reviewability of the issue from both jurisdiction and preservation viewpoints, exercising an unlimited standard of review; (2) next, the court should use an unlimited review to determine whether the instruction was legally appropriate; (3) then, the court should determine whether there was sufficient evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant or the requesting party, that would have supported the instruction; and (4) finally, if the district court erred, the appellate court must determine whether the error was harmless, utilizing the test and degree of certainty set forth in State v. Ward, 292 Kan. 541, 256 P.3d 801 (2011).

         9. A person is justified in the use of deadly force against another when and to the extent it appears to such person and such person reasonably believes that such use of force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to such person or a third person.

         10. The test for self-defense has two parts: a subjective test requiring a showing that the defendant sincerely and honestly believed it was necessary to kill to defend the defendant or others; and an objective standard requiring a showing that a reasonable person in the defendant's circumstances would have perceived the use of deadly force in self-defense was necessary.

          11. A defendant is entitled to an instruction on every affirmative defense that is supported by competent evidence. Competent evidence is that which could allow a rational fact-finder to reasonably conclude that the defense applies. Once the defendant satisfies the burden of producing such evidence, the State has the burden of disproving the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

         12. The defense theory of self-defense is an affirmative defense, and once a defendant properly asserts a self-defense affirmative defense, the State must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

         13. The crime of involuntary manslaughter includes the circumstance when the killing of a human being is committed during the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner. The crime of involuntary manslaughter is a lesser included offense of premeditated first-degree murder.

         14. A district court's refusal to give a requested lesser included offense instruction on the crime of involuntary manslaughter, even if erroneous, will not require reversal if there is no reasonable possibility that the error would have changed the jury's guilty verdict for premeditated first-degree murder.

         15. The right to a jury trial under Sections 5 and 10 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights does not give a person the right to have questions of law decided by a jury; resolving legal questions is the function of the court.

          Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; J. Dexter Burdette, judge.

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

          Jennifer S. Tatum, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Mark A. Dupree Sr., district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with her on the brief for appellee.


          Johnson, J.:

         Donald Haygood directly appeals his jury-trial convictions for premeditated first-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He claims the trial court committed reversible error by admitting evidence of his prior domestic violence and by denying his request for jury instructions on the affirmative defense of self-defense and on the lesser-included offense of involuntary manslaughter. Further, he argues the prosecutor's erroneous comments during closing argument warrant a new trial. We disagree and affirm the convictions.

         Factual and Procedural Overview

         Haygood does not deny that he shot and killed Demetria Mills in the house he shared with his long-time girlfriend, Georgie Stallings, and her 13-year-old son, G.T. The disputed testimony at trial involved the manner in which the events unfolded and the way in which Mills acted prior to the shooting.

         As background, Stallings and Mills were long-time close friends. Haygood and Mills were also close; Mills' stepmother was Haygood's adopted mother. The three regularly spent time together. In the time leading up to the shooting, Haygood had been drinking more than usual and using a drug called "Molly," which changed his behavior, making him paranoid and more abusive. Stallings and Haygood would often argue when they were drinking, and approximately two weeks before the shooting, during such an argument, Haygood hit Stallings in the lip, making it swell for a few days. Mills learned of the incident after observing Stallings' swollen lip and was concerned for her friend.

         On September 16, 2011, Haygood went to a bar around noon and stayed there until Stallings picked him up about 7 p.m. to retrieve their vehicle from a repair shop. After that errand, the couple returned to the bar and consumed a large amount of alcohol throughout the evening. Haygood also took "Molly." Mills joined them at the bar until shortly before 1 a.m., when the three went to another bar. At approximately 3 a.m., Haygood drove the three back to the house he shared with Stallings. At this point, all three were very intoxicated but were not arguing.

         Stallings and Mills entered the house first, awakening G.T., who had been asleep on the couch. The trial testimony of Haygood, Stallings, and G.T. as to what transpired after Haygood entered the house differed in some respects. The common theme, however, is that Mills demanded that Haygood leave the house, prompting an argument between them during which Mills threatened to call 911. The argument culminated with Haygood fatally shooting Mills and leaving the house. Haygood's version had Mills rushing him with a knife or what appeared to be a knife, after having said, "I'm gonna show you." Neither Stallings nor G.T. heard Mills threaten to do anything but call 911; neither saw Mills try to attack Haygood with a knife.

         Two Kansas City, Kansas, police officers testified that, at the house following the shooting, Stallings told them that she and Haygood had gotten into an argument; Mills tried to intervene and said she was going to call 911; and at that point Haygood shot Mills. One of the officers also recalled Stallings relating that Mills was privy to the history of domestic violence between Stallings and Haygood.

         Haygood was subsequently apprehended at his sister's house, where the police found a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun. A firearm and tool mark examiner testified that a spent casing found at the crime scene and the bullet recovered from Mills' body matched that handgun. The coroner could not determine the range at which the fatal shot had been fired but opined that Mills died instantly and would not have been able to move after she was shot. That would mean that Haygood shot Mills while she was standing at the location in the house where her slain body was depicted in the crime scene photographs.

         Over defense objection, the trial court allowed Stallings to testify about the prior domestic violence that resulted in her swollen lip, ruling it was admissible under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455. G.T. also testified that he recalled the swollen lip, although he did not witness the incident.

         At jury instruction conference, the trial court denied the defense request for a self-defense instruction and a lesser included offense instruction on involuntary manslaughter imperfect self-defense, i.e. Haygood committed a lawful act in an unlawful manner. The trial court instructed the jury on the elements of premeditated first-degree murder and the lesser included offenses of second-degree intentional murder and voluntary manslaughter based on imperfect self-defense (unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed justifying deadly force in self-defense). The court also instructed the jury on the defense of voluntary intoxication. The jury convicted Haygood of premeditated first-degree murder.

         In an unsuccessful motion for new trial, Haygood again objected to the use of K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455 evidence and the failure to give a self-defense instruction. Haygood timely appeals.

         Admission of K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455 Evidence

         Haygood contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to present evidence of Haygood's prior acts of domestic violence against Stallings as an exception to the prohibition in K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455 against admitting evidence of specific instances of prior crimes or civil wrongs. He argues that the evidence was not relevant to prove a disputed material fact; that it was used to prove Haygood's propensity to commit the crimes charged; and that its prejudicial effect outweighed its limited probative value.

         The admissibility of all evidence of other crimes and civil wrongs is governed by K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455. State v. Richard, 300 Kan. 715, 719, 333 P.3d 179 (2014); State v. Gunby, 282 Kan. 39, 57, 144 P.3d 647 (2006). K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455 provides in relevant part:

"(a) Subject to K.S.A. 60-447, and amendments thereto, evidence that a person committed a crime or civil wrong on a specified occasion, is inadmissible to prove such person's disposition to commit crime or civil wrong as the basis for an inference that the person committed another crime or civil wrong on another specified occasion.
"(b) Subject to K.S.A. 60-445 and 60-448, and amendments thereto, such evidence is admissible when relevant to prove some other material fact including motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident."

         Standard of Review

         The three-part Gunby test that a trial judge must use in determining whether to admit evidence under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-455, the corresponding appellate standards of review, and the trial judge's duty to provide a limiting instruction are as follows:

"'First, the district court must determine whether the fact to be proven is material, meaning that this fact has some real bearing on the decision in the case. The appellate court reviews this determination independently, without any required deference to the district court.
'Second, the district court must determine whether the material fact is disputed and, if so, whether the evidence is relevant to prove the disputed material fact. In making this determination, the district court considers whether the evidence has any tendency in reason to prove the disputed material fact. ...

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