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State v. Dawson

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 12, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Alcena M. Dawson, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. In a direct appeal, a defendant will receive the benefit of any change in the law that occurs while the direct appeal is pending.

         2. After a direct appeal is final, a movant seeking the correction of an illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504(1) will have the sentence's legality determined by the law in effect at the time the sentence was pronounced, unaffected by any subsequent change in the law.

         3. Although true changes in the law cannot transform a once legal sentence into an illegal sentence for purposes of correcting an illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504(1), it may be possible for developments in the law to impact the original analysis of whether the sentence was illegal when pronounced.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 55 Kan.App.2d 109, 408 P.3d 995 (2017).

          Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; John J. Kisner Jr., judge.

          Roger L. Falk, of Law Office of Roger L. Falk, P.A., of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.

          Lance J. Gillett, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Marc Bennett, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the briefs for appellee.

          JOHNSON, J.

         Alcena M. Dawson seeks review of the Court of Appeals' decision to affirm the district court's summary denial of his 2015 motion to correct an illegal sentence with respect to his 1997 jury trial conviction for rape. On review, Dawson contends that his sentence was based on an incorrectly calculated criminal history score because a pre-Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act (KSGA) burglary conviction was erroneously classified as a person felony.

         Dawson principally relies on State v. McAlister, 54 Kan.App.2d 65, 75-76, 78-79, 396 P.3d 100 (2017) (McAlister I), which held that our decision in State v. Dickey, 305 Kan. 217, 380 P.3d 230 (2016) (Dickey II), required the correction of all sentences that had classified pre-KSGA burglary convictions as person felonies. But the Dawson panel held that the holding in McAlister I was superseded by the retroactive application of a 2017 amendment to K.S.A. 22-3504. Dawson, 55 Kan.App.2d at 118. Because we have reversed the McAlister I panel's decision, we arrive at the same destination as the Dawson panel below, albeit via a different route.

         Factual and Procedural Overview

         We take the liberty of adopting the Court of Appeals' description of the factual and procedural background of this case, up to the time it arrived in that court:

"On June 4, 1997, a jury found Dawson guilty of rape and the following month the district court sentenced him to serve 732 months in prison. A criminal history category B was computed for Dawson's sentencing based on two person felony convictions: a 1986 residential burglary and the conversion of three person misdemeanor convictions, scored as a second person felony. A claim that the district court erred in aggregating the misdemeanor convictions was among Dawson's arguments on direct appeal. This court affirmed Dawson's conviction and sentence. State v. Dawson, No. 79, 652, unpublished opinion filed December 23, 1999 (Kan. App.), rev. denied269 Kan. 935 (2000) (Dawson I). ...

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