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.
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.
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.
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.
from Shawnee District Court; David Debenham, judge. Opinion
filed January 10, 2020. Affirmed.
Kristen B. Patty, of Wichita, for appellant.
J. Obermeier, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt,
attorney general, for appellee.
Arnold-Burger, C.J., Leben and Schroeder, JJ.
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.
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
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 ...