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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Kansas

October 4, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Val Gene Williams, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. A criminal defendant's right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the United States and Kansas Constitutions and by statute.

         2. Kansas appellate courts will consider a challenge to the waiver of a right to a jury trial for the first time on appeal to prevent the denial of a fundamental right.

         3. When the facts of a jury trial waiver are not disputed, whether a defendant voluntarily and knowingly waived the jury trial right is a legal question subject to unlimited appellate review.

         4. A jury trial may be waived if it is done so voluntarily and knowingly, and the waiver is to be strictly construed to afford a defendant every possible opportunity to receive a fair and impartial trial by jury.

         5. A waiver of the right to a jury trial will not be presumed from a silent record. A court will not accept a jury trial waiver unless the defendant, after being advised by the court of his or her right to a jury trial, personally waives that right, either in writing or in open court.

         6. It is the district court's responsibility to advise a defendant of the nature and extent of the right to a jury trial. The responsibility to inform the defendant of his or her jury trial right rests squarely with the presiding judge. The advisement of the jury trial right must come from the court itself. A district court's failure to comply with the requirement to advise a defendant of his or her right to a jury trial on the record requires reversal and remand.

          Appeal from Graham District Court; Preston Pratt, judge.

          James M. Latta, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.

          Jill A. Elliott, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.

          Before Hill, P.J., Leben, J., and Walker, S.J.

          HILL, J.:

         There is no more fundamental right in America than the right to a jury trial. That right may be waived if it is done so voluntarily and knowingly. In this appeal, Val Williams was convicted of two felony crimes based merely on fact stipulations in a diversion agreement. Nothing in the record reveals that Williams ever waived his right to a jury trial. Because there can be no implicit waiver of a jury trial, we reverse Williams' convictions and remand with directions.

         His charges ...


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