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State v. Auman

Court of Appeals of Kansas

November 1, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellant,
v.
Jeremy Wayne Auman, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prosecutors have an affirmative duty to disclose evidence favorable to a defendant when the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment. This duty exists irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.

         2. The responsibility to provide material evidence is not limited to prosecutors. Rather, because law enforcement officers act with state authority, law enforcement's knowledge of evidence is imputed to the State. The State therefore runs afoul of this principle when a prosecutor withholds material evidence that is not known to the prosecutor but is known to law enforcement.

         3. When a district court learns that the State has failed to disclose evidence favorable to the defendant, the court may impose a range of sanctions, including granting continuances, restricting the use of evidence, and entering any other order the court "deems just under the circumstances." K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3212(i). By allowing district courts to enter such orders as they deem "just," the Kansas Legislature has afforded courts discretion to determine the appropriate sanction in a given case.

         4. An appellate court will uphold the imposition of a discovery sanction in a criminal case-including dismissal-unless that action constitutes an abuse of discretion.

         5. When determining which sanction to impose for discovery violations in a criminal case, a court should take into account the reasons why disclosure was not made; the extent of the prejudice, if any, to the opposing party; the feasibility of rectifying that prejudice by a continuance; and any other relevant circumstances.

         6. Because dismissal is a drastic remedy, Kansas courts have historically observed that it should be used only in extreme circumstances, when a lesser sanction would not accomplish the desired objective. That said, Kansas courts have long recognized that a court may dismiss a case when failure to abide by the discovery rules prevents a fair trial.

         7. Evidence is materially exculpatory if it would raise a doubt about the defendant's guilt. The United States Constitution requires, at a minimum, that such evidence be provided to the defendant in a criminal case for his or her investigation and possible defense.

          Appeal from Douglas District Court; Sally D. Pokorny, judge.

          Kate Duncan Butler, assistant district attorney, Charles E. Branson, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellant.

          Patrick H. Dunn, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellee.

          Before Powell, P.J., Hill and Warner, JJ.

          WARNER, J.

         Kansas courts have long recognized that the law favors resolving criminal charges on their merits. State v. Davis, 266 Kan. 638, 646, 972 P.2d 1099 (1999). At the same time, various constitutional and statutory safeguards ensure the process for resolving such charges is a fair one-including the requirement that prosecutors timely disclose evidence that is material to the question of a defendant's guilt. State v. Warrior, 294 Kan. 484, ...


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