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State v. Leanndre Lamb

Court of Appeals of Kansas

January 10, 2020

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Deijaun D. Leanndre Lamb, Defendant, (Pattrick Towner), Appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. An appellate court should consider a case that would otherwise be moot if it (1) is of statewide interest and of the nature that public policy demands a decision, such as those issues that exonerate the defendant; (2) remains a real controversy; or (3) is capable of repetition.

         2. A contempt finding for failure to testify in a case that is subsequently dismissed without prejudice is an issue subject to repetition in light of the fact that the case may be refiled and the witness again required to testify.

         3. To present a compulsion defense, just like any other defense, there must be evidence to support it. And if the district court refuses to allow the introduction of a litigant's evidence related to the defense, the litigant must make a proffer of the evidence to preserve the issue on appeal.

          4. A judge has no independent responsibility to seek out evidence of duress from a recalcitrant witness. The witness has the affirmative duty to inform the appropriate authorities and the court of any threats.

          Appeal from Shawnee District Court; David Debenham, judge. Opinion filed January 10, 2020. Affirmed.

          Kristen B. Patty, of Wichita, for appellant.

          Steven J. Obermeier, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.

          Before Arnold-Burger, C.J., Leben and Schroeder, JJ.

          ARNOLD-BURGER, C.J.

         The State of Kansas charged Deijaun D. Leanndre Lamb with the murder of Geovani Plakio and the attempted murder of Pattrick Towner. Towner was called to testify at Lamb's preliminary hearing and identify Lamb as the shooter. Deputies transported Towner and Lamb to the courthouse together and then placed them in the same holding cell. When called to the stand, Towner refused to testify. The district court explained to Towner that the court could hold Towner in contempt if he refused to testify and gave him several opportunities to answer the State's questions. Towner refused to do so. The district court held Towner in contempt and sentenced him to six months' imprisonment.

         On appeal, Towner argues he was threatened into not testifying and the district court erred by not holding an in camera hearing, without Lamb present, so that Towner could explain why he was not testifying. Because we find that a judge has no duty to sua sponte hold an in camera hearing to determine if a witness is fearful to testify when the witness makes no such request, we affirm the district court's order finding Towner in direct criminal contempt of court.

         Factual and Procedural History

         In October 2016, the State charged Lamb with first-degree murder for the killing of Plakio and the attempted killing of Towner and Dominique Lee Boyles. According to the probable cause affidavit, Towner-during two interviews with police-stated that he was driving the car in which Plakio was shot, that he witnessed the shooting, and that Lamb killed Plakio.

         At Lamb's preliminary hearing, Towner denied knowing Lamb and said that he would not be able to identify him if he saw him on the street. The prosecutor asked the court to recess so that she could speak with Towner outside the courtroom. The court granted the request. After returning to court, the prosecutor once again asked Towner whether he knew Lamb. Towner replied that he did not "want to get involved with this case, so I'll just leave it at that." Towner stated that he was refusing to testify.

         The prosecutor asked the district court to hold Towner in contempt. The court asked Towner's attorney whether Towner had any Fifth Amendment privilege that would allow him to not testify. Towner's attorney replied that he was unaware of any privilege. After Towner spent some time speaking with his attorney, the court ordered Towner to testify and asked whether he understood that the court could hold him in contempt for refusing to do so. The court informed Towner that he could be held in jail for up to six months if there was a contempt proceeding and the court found him guilty. Towner stated that he understood but ...


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