SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
Premeditation is not a "culpable mental state" that
can be negated by the mental disease or defect defense under
K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5209.
a defendant encourages the jury to infer that the State's
evidence is not credible because it failed to admit a certain
piece of evidence, the State may refute the inference by
informing the jury that the defense has the power to
introduce evidence. But in so doing, a prosecutor cannot
suggest that a defendant must disprove the State's case.
from Sumner District Court; R. Scott McQuin, judge.
Michelle A. Davis, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office,
argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.
L. Spencer, county attorney, argued the cause, and Derek
Schmidt, attorney general, was with him on the briefs for
suffering from a psychotic episode, Lindsey Nicole Blansett
stabbed her 10-year-old son, Caleb Blansett, to death. A jury
convicted Blansett of first-degree premeditated murder and
aggravated assault. On appeal, Blansett challenges the jury
instructions concerning her mental disease or defect defense.
She also alleges several instances of prosecutorial error and
claims cumulative error merits reversal.
first, Blansett argued that premeditation is a culpable
mental state that can be negated by the mental disease or
defect defense. But while her case was pending, we decided
State v. McLinn, 307 Kan. 307, 323, 409 P.3d 1
(2018), and rejected the same argument, holding that
premeditation is not a "culpable mental state"
under K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 21-5209. We later granted
Blansett's request for supplemental briefing to discuss
McLinn's impact and raise additional arguments.
Now, Blansett argues the jury instructions prevented the jury
from considering how the evidence of her mental disease or
defect affected her ability to premeditate.
Blansett has failed to establish instructional error because
we disagree with her characterization of the jury
instructions. Also, we find one instance of prosecutorial
error but hold it was harmless. As a result, there are not
multiple errors to accumulate and cumulative error does not
apply. For these reasons, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
before midnight on December 14, 2014, the Sumner County 911
dispatcher received a call from Blansett. The first thing
Blansett said was, "Hi, this is Nicole Blansett, I just
stabbed my son. . . . I thought somebody was coming in to get
us." The dispatcher asked Blansett where she had stabbed
her son, and Blansett replied, "In the chest. . . . I
thought somebody was coming in." After the dispatcher
told her to hold on the line, Blansett exclaimed, "God,
what did I fucking do? . . . I'm never gonna get out of
jail . . . never. Oh God, you're gonna have to live with
dad. Oh, God, why? Why?" and then began crying. When the
dispatcher returned to the line, he asked Blansett if her son
was breathing. Blansett said she could feel his heartbeat but
Sara Owens was the first to arrive at Blansett's house in
Wellington. Officer Owens would later testify: "When I
walked into the house, I noticed that the house was
completely dark, and I saw a white female that I identified
as Nicole Blansett, and a young child, who ended up being
Cadence Blansett. Nicole was kind of in a daze and Cadence
was crying." Officer Owens "found Caleb laying on
his back on the bed with blood covering his chest."
Caleb had no pulse.
told Officer Owens that "she had been frightened";
"she thought that something was going to happen";
"she felt like she heard something by the window";
and "her son's toy gun had fallen for no
reason." Blansett talked "about having peoples'
arms . . . chopped off, people being cut up, Caleb living
like a dog, being in pain, and she didn't want her  son
to live like that." Blansett "thought she was
saving him from all the years of pain. She didn't specify
what kind of pain. Just somebody coming and getting him.
Somebody hurting him."
the EMTs arrived, they found Caleb lying motionless in bed
with multiple stab wounds to his left pectoral area. They
pronounced Caleb dead at the scene. In the same room,
investigators found a knife on the dresser and an 11-pound
rock lying next to the bed.
Bobby Wilson interviewed Blansett at the scene of the crime.
Blansett told Detective Wilson that she was having financial
issues and was depressed. She explained that she had been
trying to reconcile with her ex-husband Clint, and he wanted
her "to go to mental health" on the following
Monday. Blansett had agreed to do so in hopes of reconciling
told Detective Wilson that earlier in the evening she was
tending to two puppies she had gotten the children as an
early Christmas present. At some point, she took their large
adult dog outside. When she came back inside, she took three
knives out of a kitchen drawer and laid them on the counter.
According to Blansett, she heard a noise and walked through
house carrying one of the knives. Turns out, the noise was
caused by a toy gun falling off the wall in Caleb's room.
recalled that she returned to the kitchen, set the knife
down, and went back to the dogs. But shortly after, she
decided "that Caleb just needed to go to heaven, and he
needed to go to heaven that night. She was going to ease his
pain. And that's when she made a decision to end his
life." Then Blansett went to Caleb's room and
stabbed him while he was asleep. As Detective Wilson
summarized, Blansett stabbed Caleb once, realized what she
had started, and then decided to stab him a couple more
Wilson probed why Blansett killed her son. She commented that
Caleb was "meek, a weak child." Blansett was hard
to follow and "[n]ever gave an exact reason why."
But she insisted that "[s]he needed to stop his pain.
She needed to save him. And he needed to go to heaven."
the on-site interview, Detective Wilson took Blansett to the
Sumner County jail. Later that morning, Blansett asked to
speak with Detective Wilson again, and over the course of
three more interviews she discussed the killing and her
mental process in more depth.
outset, Blansett told Detective Wilson that she had hit Caleb
with a rock before stabbing him. She first thought the rock
would kill Caleb, and when it did not, she stabbed him.
Detective Wilson asked if, after hitting Caleb with the rock,
Blansett had to leave the room to get the knife. Blansett
said "no." She also told Detective Wilson that
Caleb woke up after she hit him with the rock. As Blansett
stabbed Caleb, he yelled, "'Mommy, stop. Mommy,
stop.'" Cadence also yelled at Blansett to stop. But
Blansett kept stabbing and told Caleb that this was the only
way he could get to heaven.
Detective Wilson asked Blansett why she killed Caleb,
Blansett said, "I just lost my mind." In the days
leading up to the crime, she had not been eating or sleeping
well and her mind was racing "nonstop." That day,
Blansett believed people were coming to hurt them. She
explained, "I thought something bad was gonna happen to
them, I thought something bad was gonna happen to me, and I
thought that that was the only way that I could save
them," and, "I felt like I was being closed in
on." Blansett expressed that Caleb would struggle in
life and she was doing the best thing for him.
Blansett also admitted that, as soon as she stabbed Caleb,
she "knew it was wrong." Detective Wilson suggested
that Blansett premeditated the killing when she retrieved the
rock and the knife. Blansett denied this repeatedly and
insisted that she did not plan the killing.
State charged Blansett with first-degree premeditated murder
and aggravated assault. At trial, the State's
case-in-chief consisted mainly of the testimony of
investigators and forensic scientists. Detective Wilson
testified for the State and detailed each of the interviews
that he conducted with Blansett. Although each of the
interviews had been recorded in some manner, only a recording
of the third interview was introduced into evidence and
played for the jury.
State also called Blansett's friend Ivan Scott to
testify. He explained that the night before Caleb's
death, Blansett and her kids stayed overnight at his house.
He recalled that Blansett "was acting paranoid"
that night and worried that someone was in the house.
the State rested its case, the defense called Dr. Jarrod
Steffan, a psychologist, to testify. Dr. Steffan had
interviewed and evaluated Blansett. He testified that about a
month before Caleb's death, Blansett became
"paranoid and suspicious, particularly of her mother and
her stepfather." During that time, Blansett claimed she
heard her son talking in his sleep like he was having a
nightmare, saying "[s]omething to the effect of,
'Stop, Papa, stop.'" Blansett soon "formed
the opinion" that her ex-husband was sexually abusing
Caleb. Around that time, Blansett also came to believe that
she had been sexually abused as a child, though it was
unclear to Dr. Steffan whether this had occurred.
to Dr. Steffan, about a week before Caleb's death,
Blansett had attended a church service "about God's
wrath and salvation." At this service, the verse Genesis
9:11 stood out to Blansett. She became obsessed with those
numbers, thinking about all the times they had come up in her
life. She also read chapter 9, verse 11 from other books of
the Bible. She then became "very paranoid about what was
going on and wasn't sure whether the verses about the
references to 911 were coming from God or from the devil. She
had an overwhelming sense of fear of terror." She
believed that events like September 11, 2001, were
"God's way of, what she said, taking out people
before really bad things happened. It was a way that God
saves people. Brings them into heaven before they-they suffer
a calamity essentially."
"[Blansett] became in the clinical sense what-what a
psychologist and psychiatrist would say as-as being very
preoccupied and perseverating on that. And those beliefs then
morphed into what we call a delusional belief system wherein
she was believing that the end times were coming, and she had
the sense that-she had this pervasive fearfulness in her
life, and she began to believe that Clint, his friends, or
other people were going to come into her home, take her two
kids, and kill her. And for different reasons she believed
that her son wouldn't be able to withstand living with
Clint; that Clint would be abusive toward him-toward Caleb;
would eventually torture Caleb. . . . And so in her mind she
believed that the right thing to do would be to do what God
had done through other very bad events, like 9-11, that is,
God-God used 9-11 to rescue some people or bring them into
heaven so that they would not experience worse types . . . of
events. The end times. And so she thought that she had to
kill her son in order to prevent him from being taken, and
tortured, and ultimately killed . . . by the son's
father. But that belief didn't happen until moments
before she killed her son. Up until that Sunday night, she
had these different thoughts about religion, and the end
times, and . . . she said that she was having visions of
Caleb being tortured, beaten. I wasn't able to get the
sense from her whether they were what we would call visual
hallucinations where she was actually seeing things that no
one could possibly see. That it was some severe disruption in
her mind. Or if it was something that was like a vivid image
that was going along with her different thoughts about what
was happening. But she reported she was seeing those
different things of her son being tortured."
Steffan concluded that Blansett experienced a change in her
mental function about one month before she killed her son,
which worsened the week beforehand. He believed that
Blansett's mood and sleep changes were consistent with
someone who has bipolar disorder and is having a manic
episode. As Dr. Steffan explained, during a manic ...