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State v. Roberts

Supreme Court of Kansas

March 8, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Leslie H. Roberts, Jr., Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         A merely procedural defect in competency proceedings does not deprive the district court of jurisdiction to sentence a criminal defendant.

          Appeal from Anderson District Court; Eric W. Godderz, judge.

          Gerald E. Wells, of Jerry Wells Attorney-at-Law, of Lawrence, was on the brief for appellant.

          Brandon L. Jones, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          BEIER, J.:

         This is an appeal from summary denial of a motion to correct illegal sentence filed by defendant Leslie H. Roberts, Jr. Roberts now concedes summary denial was appropriate, but he raises a new challenge to his sentence on this appeal, arguing that the handling of his pre-plea competency issue deprived the district court of jurisdiction to sentence him. We reject this new claim and affirm the denial of the motion to correct illegal sentence.

          Facts and Procedural Background

         Roberts was sentenced to a hard 25 life sentence after pleading no contest to rape of a child under the age of 14 in violation of K.S.A. 21-3502(a)(2). This court affirmed Roberts' sentence in State v. Roberts, 293 Kan. 1093, 272 P.3d 24 (2012).

         Roberts filed a pro se motion to correct illegal sentence years later. He asserted that he had never admitted he was older than 18 or that the victim was under the age of 14 at the time of the crime, undercutting sentence-enhancing elements that had not been submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court judge dismissed Roberts' motion without appointment of counsel or holding a hearing; the judge determined that the record established Roberts' and the victim's ages at the time of the crime. See Makthepharak v. State, 298 Kan. 573, 576, 314 P.3d 876 (2013) (when presented with motion to correct illegal sentence, district court should conduct initial examination of the motion to determine if it raises substantial issues of law or fact).

         On this appeal, Roberts concedes the district judge's ruling was correct on the age issue, but he asserts he is nevertheless entitled to relief. Roberts now argues that K.S.A. 22-3302(1) procedures for determining defendant competency were not followed before he entered his plea, depriving the court of jurisdiction to sentence him. See State v. Samuel, 309 Kan. 155, 157, 432 P.3d 666 (2019) (sentence pronounced without jurisdiction illegal).

         After Roberts' prosecution was launched in early 2010, defense counsel Craig Cole requested a determination of Roberts' competency. Cole stated that he had "serious concerns about [Roberts'] ability to understand the charges and help with his defense." The district judge ordered an evaluation to determine competency.

         The results of the evaluation were filed with the court in the form of a letter from the psychologist who had performed it. The psychologist determined "that Mr. Roberts is competent to stand trial in that he understands the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him, and has the ability to work with an attorney to make a defense." The psychologist advised, however, that the court should take into consideration some "special concerns" to maintain Roberts' competency throughout the proceedings. Specifically, the psychologist advised that Roberts was "a non-reader and ha[d] a low to borderline intellectual level of functioning."

         The court acknowledged the evaluation in open court before moving on to rescheduling ...


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