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State v. Redding

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 12, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
Jeffery S. Redding, Appellant.


         1. Courts are to interpret pro se pleadings based upon their contents and not solely on their title or labels. But there are limits to a court's duty to liberally construe pro se pleadings; a court is not required to divine every conceivable interpretation of a motion, especially when a movant repeatedly asserts specific statutory grounds for relief and propounds arguments related to that specific statute.

         2. Appellate courts treat motions under K.S.A. 22-3504 like motions under K.S.A. 60-1507 for purposes of determining whether a hearing and appointment of counsel are required.

         3. If the district court determines that a K.S.A. 22-3504 motion and the files and records of the case do not present a substantial question of law or triable issue of fact, the court is not statutorily required to appoint an attorney for the movant.

         4. If the district court conducts a hearing to determine whether a K.S.A. 22-3504 motion presents substantial questions of law or triable issues of fact at which the State is represented by counsel, the movant's due process right to appointed counsel is implicated. A district court's review of the State's response to the motion, standing alone, does not trigger the movant's due process right to counsel.

         5. When a district court accepts the recommendation of a plea agreement to depart from an off-grid Jessica's Law hard-25 life sentence to a specific on-grid sentence, the court's failure to consider a second departure to an even shorter sentence does not render the agreed-upon sentence illegal.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed February 3, 2017.

          Appeal from Rice District Court; Mike Keeley, judge. Opinion filed July12, 2019.

          Michael P. Whalen, of Law Office of Michael P. Whalen, of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Steven J. Obermeier, assistant solicitor general, argued the cause, and Amanda G. Voth, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the briefs for appellee.

          JOHNSON, J.

         Jeffery S. Redding seeks our review of the Court of Appeals' decision affirming the district court's summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. State v. Redding, No. 115, 037, 2017 WL 462658 (Kan. App. 2017) (unpublished opinion). Redding claims that his pro se motion should have been liberally construed as a K.S.A. 60-1507 motion; that his sentence was illegal because the district court failed to follow proper statutory procedures for imposing a departure sentence; and that his due process rights were violated when the district court requested a response from the State before summarily denying the motion without appointment of counsel for Redding. We affirm the lower courts on all issues.

         Factual and Procedural Overview

         Redding was charged with multiple counts of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child based on allegations that he sexually abused his 4-year-old daughter and his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter in 2010 and 2011. Pursuant to a signed plea agreement, Redding pled nolo contendere to one count of rape, K.S.A. 21-3502(a)(2), and one count of aggravated indecent liberties, K.S.A. 21-3504(a)(3)(A), in return for the State's agreement to recommend a departure from the "hard 25" off-grid sentences under Jessica's Law to the applicable on-grid sentences for his crimes, but to recommend that the on-grid sentences be imposed consecutively. The agreed-upon gridbox numbers translated to a 155-month sentence for the rape and 55-month sentence for the aggravated indecent liberties, for an aggregated sentence of 210 months, or 17.5 years.

         Redding's counsel filed a motion for a departure from the Jessica's Law sentences, asserting that the substantial and compelling reasons to depart included his lack of criminal history, his age (33 years old), and his plea had spared the victims the trauma of testifying at a trial. The State concurred with the departure reasons. But Redding wrote a letter to the court in lieu of allocution in which he requested an even shorter sentence because he did not want to be away from his family, and he was concerned with his ability to resume employment in his chosen field if he were gone too long.

         At sentencing, the district court imposed the Jessica's Law sentence for each count, but then departed to the jointly recommended total sentence of 210 months' imprisonment, citing as substantial and compelling reasons Redding's lack of criminal history, his family support, and his having spared the victims from having to testify.

         Subsequently, Redding filed a motion to permit an untimely appeal, but quickly withdrew it. More than two years later, Redding filed this pro se "Motion to Correct An[] Illegal Sentence." Because Redding had not served the State with a copy of the motion, the district court sent a copy to the State along with a letter saying that the State had time to respond, and that the district court would wait for the State's response before reviewing the motion. The State filed a response on August 19, 2015, and on August 28, 2015, the ...

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