Com. v. Ryan, No. 99-SC-318-OA.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtKeller
Citation5 S.W.3d 113
Docket NumberNo. 99-SC-318-OA.
Decision Date26 August 1999
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Petitioner, v. Honorable Stephen P. RYAN, Judge Jefferson Circuit Court, Division Six, Respondent. and Kimberly Harris, Real Party In Interest.
5 S.W.3d 113
COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Petitioner,
v.
Honorable Stephen P. RYAN, Judge Jefferson Circuit Court, Division Six, Respondent. and
Kimberly Harris, Real Party In Interest.
No. 99-SC-318-OA.
Supreme Court of Kentucky.
August 26, 1999.
Rehearing Denied December 16, 1999.

Page 114

Craig C. Dilger, David M. Lewis, Special Assistant Attorney General, Louisville, for Petitioner.

Frank W. Heft, Jr., Bette J. Niemi, Office of the Jefferson District Public Defender, Louisville, for Real Party In Interest.

KELLER, Justice.


In May of 1997, the Jefferson County Grand Jury indicted Kimberly Harris, the real party in interest, for two counts of capital murder in violation of KRS 507.020. The indictments alleged Ms. Harris intentionally killed two employees of Jefferson Place Nursing Home in the parking lot of that establishment following the termination of her employment. Pursuant to KRS 532.025, the Commonwealth filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty and identified intentional murders resulting in multiple deaths as the statutory aggravator.

The defendant raised the issue of her competency to stand trial. On August 31, 1998, the trial judge conducted a hearing on the issue of competency and both the Commonwealth and Harris presented evidence. In November of 1998, the trial court issued a ruling finding Harris competent to stand trial and set the case for trial in April of 1999.

Following the trial court's ruling regarding competency, Harris' attorney filed a pleading titled "Motion to Exclude the Death Penalty as a Potential Penalty in this Action for This Mentally III Defendant." On March 12, 1999, the trial court, after an evidentiary hearing and over the Commonwealth's objection, granted the motion and entered an order finding Harris suffered from a significant mental illness and excluding the death penalty as a sentencing option. Following its ruling excluding the death penalty, the court allowed Harris to enter a plea of guilty but mentally ill to two counts of intentional murder and set Harris' sentencing for April 15, 1999. The Commonwealth

Page 115

brought this original proceeding, petitioning the Court for a writ of prohibition to prevent the trial judge from enforcing the order excluding the death penalty.

This Court stayed the proceedings in Jefferson Circuit Court on April 13, 1999 and we now grant the Commonwealth's petition for a writ of prohibition.

As the court order which is the subject of this litigation directly affects the imposition of the death penalty, we accept jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to CR 76.36 and the policy regarding death penalty matters announced in Skaggs v. Commonwealth, Ky., 803 S.W.2d 573 (1990).

The decision to issue or deny a writ of prohibition is within the sound discretion of the court. Rowley v. Lampe, Ky., 331 S.W.2d 887 (1960). As threshold requirements for granting such relief, the petitioner must demonstrate:

(1) the lower court is proceeding or about to proceed outside of its jurisdiction and there is no adequate remedy by appeal, or (2) the lower court is about to act incorrectly, although within its jurisdiction, and there exists no adequate remedy by appeal or otherwise great injustice and irreparable injury would result. Tipton v. Commonwealth, Ky. App., 770 S.W.2d 239 (1989); Hobson v. Curtis, Ky., 329 S.W.2d 565 (1959).

We believe this is a case which falls in the second category. The trial court is acting within its jurisdiction. While it appears that the Commonwealth has an adequate remedy by appeal, Collins v. Commonwealth, Ky., 973 S.W.2d 50 (1998), we previously issued a temporary stay, and the matter has been fully briefed and argued by the parties. Moreover, the incident on which this indictment is based took place over two years ago, and the interests of justice require that this matter be resolved without further delay. See, e.g., Allen v. Walter, Ky., 534 S.W.2d 453, 455 (1976). Accordingly, we address the merits of this matter.

Plea of Guilty but Mentally Ill

The Commonwealth argues the trial court improperly ruled pretrial that the defendant was mentally ill, and thus implies the trial court should not have accepted a plea of guilty but mentally ill to the charges without the Commonwealth's consent. The Commonwealth describes the trial court's decisions regarding the defendant's mental illness as tantamount to summary judgment, and reminds this Court of precedent which holds summary judgment is improper in criminal proceedings in this state. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Hayden, Ky., 489 S.W.2d 513, 516 (1972); King v. Venters, Ky., 595 S.W.2d 714 (1980).

We believe our Penal Code and Criminal Rules allow a trial court to accept a plea of guilty but mentally ill without the acquiescence of the Commonwealth. However, we further believe that the trial court is required by statute to make findings of fact with respect to the defendant's mental illness before accepting such a plea. Guilty but mentally ill is listed among the pleas available to a defendant in RCr 8.08:

A defendant may plead not guilty, guilty or guilty but mentally ill. The court may refuse to accept a plea of guilty or guilty but mentally ill, and shall not accept the plea without first determining that the plea is made voluntarily with understanding of the nature of the charge. RCr 8.08.

KRS 504.130, the basis for the plea of guilty but mentally ill, further explains the plea and emphasizes the requirement of a factual finding of mental illness:

(2) If the defendant waives his right to trial, the court may accept a plea of guilty but mentally ill if it finds that the defendant was mentally ill at the time of the offense. KRS 504.130 (emphasis added).

We are mindful of our opinion in Commonwealth v. Corey, Ky., 826 S.W.2d 319 (1992), which held "if the guilty plea has strings attached which limit the sentence

Page 116

which may be imposed by virtue of it, the Commonwealth must be a party to the agreement." Id. at 321. As discussed below in connection with our analysis of the trial court's ruling excluding the death penalty from the sentencing alternatives, Corey is important to our ultimate disposition of this matter. However, with respect to the issue of acceptance of the plea of guilty but mentally ill, KRS 504.150 explains "[t]he court shall sentence a defendant found guilty but mentally ill at the time of the offense ... in the same manner as a defendant found guilty ...." Id. The statute, of course, further requires mental health treatment be provided to the defendant found guilty but mentally ill. Id. However, we see no inherent limitation on the sentence which may be imposed when a trial judge accepts a defendant's plea of guilty but mentally ill over the...

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11 practice notes
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR (KY 12/16/2004), No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 16, 2004
    ...v. Lambert, Ky., 113 S.W.3d 171, 175 (2003), Ky. Labor Cabinet v. Graham, Ky., 43 S.W.3d 247,255-56 (2001), Commonwealth v. Ryan, Ky., 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (1999), Potter v. Eli Lilly & Co., Ky., 926 S.W.2d 449, 452 (1996), Fischer v. State Bd. of Elections, Ky., 847 S.W.2d 718, 720 (1993)......
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • August 26, 2004
    ...v. Lambert, Ky., 113 S.W.3d 171, 175 (2003), Ky. Labor Cabinet v. Graham, Ky., 43 S.W.3d 247, 255-56 (2001), Commonwealth v. Ryan, Ky., 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (1999), Potter v. Eli Lilly & Co., Ky., 926 S.W.2d 449, 452 (1996), Fischer v. State Bd. of Elections, Ky., 847 S.W.2d 718, 720 (1993......
  • Dunlap v. Commonwealth, 2010-SC-000226-MR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • June 20, 2013
    ...to make findings of fact with respect to the defendant's mental illness before accepting such a [GBMI] plea." Commonwealth v. Ryan, 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (Ky. 1999), abrogated on other grounds by Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d 1. We are not a fact-finding Court. Instead, we hold that when a trial cou......
  • Dunlap v. Commonwealth, No. 2010–SC–000226–MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • February 20, 2014
    ...to make findings of fact with respect to the defendant's mental illness before accepting such a [GBMI] plea.” Commonwealth v. Ryan, 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (Ky.1999), abrogated on other grounds by Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d 1. We are not a fact-finding Court. Instead, we hold that when a trial court rej......
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11 cases
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR (KY 12/16/2004), No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 16, 2004
    ...v. Lambert, Ky., 113 S.W.3d 171, 175 (2003), Ky. Labor Cabinet v. Graham, Ky., 43 S.W.3d 247,255-56 (2001), Commonwealth v. Ryan, Ky., 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (1999), Potter v. Eli Lilly & Co., Ky., 926 S.W.2d 449, 452 (1996), Fischer v. State Bd. of Elections, Ky., 847 S.W.2d 718, 720 (1993)......
  • Hoskins v. Maricle, No. 2002-SC-0579-MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • August 26, 2004
    ...v. Lambert, Ky., 113 S.W.3d 171, 175 (2003), Ky. Labor Cabinet v. Graham, Ky., 43 S.W.3d 247, 255-56 (2001), Commonwealth v. Ryan, Ky., 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (1999), Potter v. Eli Lilly & Co., Ky., 926 S.W.2d 449, 452 (1996), Fischer v. State Bd. of Elections, Ky., 847 S.W.2d 718, 720 (1993......
  • Dunlap v. Commonwealth, 2010-SC-000226-MR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • June 20, 2013
    ...to make findings of fact with respect to the defendant's mental illness before accepting such a [GBMI] plea." Commonwealth v. Ryan, 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (Ky. 1999), abrogated on other grounds by Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d 1. We are not a fact-finding Court. Instead, we hold that when a trial cou......
  • Dunlap v. Commonwealth, No. 2010–SC–000226–MR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • February 20, 2014
    ...to make findings of fact with respect to the defendant's mental illness before accepting such a [GBMI] plea.” Commonwealth v. Ryan, 5 S.W.3d 113, 115 (Ky.1999), abrogated on other grounds by Hoskins, 150 S.W.3d 1. We are not a fact-finding Court. Instead, we hold that when a trial court rej......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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