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State v. Williams

Supreme Court of Kansas

November 30, 2018

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Isaac D. Williams Jr., Appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Appellate courts review sufficiency of evidence claims in a criminal case to determine whether a rational fact-finder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In making this determination, appellate courts view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, which means the court does not reweigh evidence, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or make determinations regarding witness credibility.

         2. Inconsistent jury verdicts are not unconstitutional; they can simply be the product of a jury's mistake, compromise, or lenity and should not necessarily be interpreted as a windfall to the State at a defendant's expense. But relief may be appropriate where a guilty verdict on one count logically excludes a finding of guilt on the other-in other words, where the verdicts are mutually exclusive.

         3. Mutually exclusive verdicts include: (1) those that are a legal impossibility, such as guilty verdicts on both a greater and its lesser included offense and (2) those that purport to establish a defendant's guilt for two separate and distinct criminal offenses, the nature of which are such that guilt of one necessarily excludes guilt of the other-that is, when a conviction as to one of the crimes negates an element of the other.

         4. The elements of aggravated burglary under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5807(b) and domestic battery under K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5414 do not negate each other.

         5. An instruction that includes a factual determination made by the district court invades the province of the jury as the fact-finder and violates a defendant's rights to have the jury determine his or her guilt or innocence.

         6. A jury instruction stating that the State must prove a defendant used a deadly weapon and informing the jury of the object that the State has alleged to be the deadly weapon by saying, "used a deadly weapon, a baseball bat," does not invade the province of the jury.

         7. Assault and battery are lesser included offenses of aggravated assault and aggravated battery, respectively. Thus, if sufficient evidence of all of the elements of the greater offense has been presented by the State, then evidence of the elements of the lesser included offense has necessarily been presented. Accordingly, an instruction on the lesser included offense is legally and factually appropriate and should be given by the district court. But when a defendant failed to object during the trial to the district court's failure to give the lesser included offense instruction, the defendant must demonstrate that the failure was clearly erroneous by firmly convincing the appellate court that the giving of the instruction would have made a difference in the verdict. In a case with overwhelming evidence of the elements of the greater offenses, the district court's failure to give lesser included offense instructions was not clearly erroneous.

         8. Kansas' aggravated battery statute, K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5413(b)(1)(B), requires the battery be one where great bodily harm can be inflicted. That requirement is not unconstitutionally vague.

         9. In conducting a cumulative error analysis, an appellate court aggregates all errors and, even though those errors would individually be considered harmless, analyzes whether their cumulative effect on the outcome of the trial is such that collectively they cannot be determined to be harmless. If any of the errors being aggregated are constitutional in nature, the cumulative error must be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. In making the assessment of whether the cumulative errors are harmless, an appellate court examines the errors in the context of the record as a whole considering how the district court dealt with the errors as they arose (including the efficacy, or lack of efficacy, of any remedial efforts); the nature and number of errors committed and their interrelationship, if any; and the strength of the evidence.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed December 4, 2015.

          Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; Terry L. Pullman, judge.

          Randall L. Hodgkinson, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the briefs 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.

          OPINION

          LUCKERT, J.

         Isaac D. Williams Jr. raises six challenges to his convictions for aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and domestic battery. We reject his challenges and hold:

1. Sufficient evidence supports Williams' aggravated burglary conviction because, when we view the record in the light most favorable to the State, it contains sufficient evidence for a rational fact-finder to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams entered the victim's dwelling without authority;
2. Williams' convictions for aggravated burglary and domestic battery are not mutually exclusive or logically inconsistent because the elements of one offense do not nullify those of the other and the jury could have been convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams lacked authority to enter the victim's home-a necessary element of aggravated burglary-while also being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed battery against someone with whom he was living or with whom he had previously lived;
3. The district court did not invade the province of the jury when it instructed the jury that the State had to prove Williams committed aggravated assault by using "a deadly weapon, a baseball bat" because the instructions, when read as a whole, left for the jury's consideration whether the bat was calculated or likely to produce death or serious injury;
4. Under the facts of this case, the district court erred by failing to instruct on assault as a lesser included offense of aggravated assault and on battery as a lesser included offense of aggravated battery, but neither error was clear error requiring reversal of Williams' aggravated assault or aggravated battery convictions;
5. Kansas' aggravated battery statute, K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5413(b)(1)(B), requires the battery be one where great bodily harm "can be inflicted," and that requirement is not unconstitutionally vague; and
6. Cumulative error did not deprive Williams of a fair trial.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On July 24, 2011, Williams called Tanya R. Robinson and told her he planned to come to her residence after work. Robinson discouraged Williams from coming over, and an argument ensued. Despite Robinson's discouragement, Williams showed up at Robinson's home. He knocked on the door, but Robinson did not answer. He continued knocking for "a long period of time." Robinson finally went to the door, but she did not let Williams enter. After a verbal exchange, Williams walked away and Robinson locked the door. Williams soon returned and began pounding on the door. Robinson was talking on the phone with a friend, who could hear Williams' pounding. Williams then broke a glass pane on the door and forced it open.

         Williams entered the house, grabbed Robinson, strangled her, and "head-butted" her by hitting his head on her forehead. He then picked up a baseball bat she kept by the front door for protection. He held the bat above his head and threatened to hit Robinson and damage her possessions. Robinson fled through the front door. Robinson's friend, who had remained on the phone, called 911.

         Police soon arrived. They observed marks on Robinson's neck consistent with strangulation. Officers questioned Robinson about her relationship with Williams. She said they were dating and Williams sometimes spent the night. Williams told the officers he had lived with Robinson for about two weeks. But a search of the home revealed items consistent only with an overnight stay-a shaving kit and one change of clothes. Williams told officers he received mail at a different address.

         Witnesses testified at trial that Williams and Robinson had purchased furniture and appliances together, and Williams had placed the electricity and water services at the address in his name. These utilities were turned on about two weeks before the crimes were committed, which coincides with Williams' statements to the police that he had lived with Robinson for two weeks.

         The State charged Williams with aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, domestic battery, and criminal trespass. The jury convicted him of all charges except criminal trespass, and the district court sentenced him to 142 months' imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions. See State v. Williams, No. 108, 394, 2015 WL 8174299 (Kan. App. 2015) (unpublished opinion). We granted Williams' petition for review. Our jurisdiction is proper under K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 20-3018(b) (petition for review of Court of Appeals decision).

         Analysis

         Williams raises seven issues. We have reordered his issues and combined two lesser included offense issues for our analysis. As reordered and combined, Williams argues: (1) The State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his aggravated burglary conviction; (2) his convictions for aggravated burglary and domestic battery are mutually exclusive; (3) the district court erroneously instructed the jury on aggravated assault when it told the jury the State had to prove Williams used "a deadly weapon, a baseball bat"; (4) the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of assault and battery; (5) Kansas' aggravated battery statute, K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5413(b)(1)(B), is unconstitutionally vague; and (6) cumulative error deprived him of a fair trial. We reject each argument.

         1. Sufficient evidence supports Williams' conviction for aggravated burglary.

         Williams argues there was insufficient evidence to support his aggravated burglary conviction. Our standard for reviewing this claim is well-settled: Appellate courts review sufficiency claims in a criminal case to determine whether "'a rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" State v. Dunn, 304 Kan. 773, 821, 375 P.3d 332 (2016). In making this determination, appellate courts view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, which means the court "'does not reweigh evidence, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or make determinations regarding witness credibility.' [Citations omitted.]" 304 Kan. at 822.

         We apply that standard to Williams' argument that the State failed to prove the offense of aggravated burglary. Aggravated burglary is defined as "without authority, entering into or remaining within any building . . . in which there is a human being with intent to commit a felony, theft or sexual battery therein." K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5807(b). Williams argues the State failed to prove he lacked authority to enter the residence because he was living or had previously lived there and previously even had a key. Given these facts, he argues the State had to prove he had established a new residence in order to prove he no longer had the authority to enter the residence. He asserts it was not enough to show Robinson did not want him to enter the residence and had taken away his key. To support his argument he states that "the authority to enter is a property right tied to the status of one's residence." He then argues "the state's laws of residence take on a legal meaning" and, in Kansas, a change in residency requires "'not only physical or bodily presence in the new location, but also the intention to abandon the old residence and adopt another in the new location.' K.S.A. 77-201."

         Williams appears to quote from K.S.A. 77-201 to support his argument. But that statute does not include the quoted language. K.S.A. 77-201 relates to the construction of statutes and includes definitions of terms often used throughout various statutory codes. It defines "[r]esidence" to mean "the place which is adopted by a person as the person's place of habitation and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention of returning." K.S.A. 77-201, Twenty-third. The statute also provides some guidance for determining residence: "When a person eats at one place and sleeps at another, the place where the person sleeps shall be considered the person's residence." K.S.A. 77-201, Twenty-third. This statute does not, on its face, support Williams' contention that the State had to prove his intent to abandon Robinson's home as his residence and to adopt a new residence. And he cites no authority for his assertion that "the authority to enter is a property right tied to the status of one's residence." Failure to support a point with pertinent authority or show why it is sound despite a lack of supporting authority or in the face of contrary authority is like failing to brief the issue. See State v. Murray, 302 Kan. 478, 486, 353 P.3d 1158 (2015).

         More significantly, the aggravated burglary statute does not require the State to prove (or disprove) a burglar's residence. Instead, the State needs to prove the burglar lacked authority to enter or remain in the residence. See K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 21-5807(b). As the Court of Appeals stated: "The State only needs to present enough evidence to prove each element of the crime, as prescribed by statute." Williams, 2015 WL 8174299, at *4 (citing In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 [1970]; State v. Rupert, 247 Kan. 512, 514-15, 802 P.2d 511');">802 P.2d 511 [1990]). Thus, Williams "requires too much." 2015 WL 8174299, at *4.

         The Court of Appeals also pointed out that this court has not stated a test for determining whether a person enters or remains in a home "without authority," as that phrase is used in the aggravated burglary statute. 2015 WL 8174299, at *5. But such a test is hard to devise because the determination is fact-specific.

         Generally, social guests, even those sleeping at the residence, do not have property rights in the residence. See State v. Talkington, 301 Kan. 453, 477, 345 P.3d 258 (2015) (recognizing that social guests do not have property rights that can serve as a basis for standing to object to a search). In the aggravated burglary context, this is significant because someone with a property interest-as an owner or lessee, for example-has the right to exclude others from the property. See Black's Law Dictionary 1410 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "property" as: "Collectively, the rights in a valued resource such as land, chattel, or an intangible. It is common to describe property as a 'bundle of rights.' These rights include the right to possess and use, the right to exclude, and the right to transfer."). But the one with property rights might grant permission for the defendant to enter or remain on the property, in which case the guest has authority and the State fails to prove an aggravated burglary. See State v. Franklin, 280 Kan. 337, ...


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