Goben v. Commonwealth, 2014–SC–000712–MR

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtOPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE HUGHES
Citation503 S.W.3d 890
Decision Date15 December 2016
Docket Number2014–SC–000712–MR
Parties Kenneth GOBEN, Appellant v. COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee

503 S.W.3d 890

Kenneth GOBEN, Appellant
v.
COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee

2014–SC–000712–MR

Supreme Court of Kentucky.

DECEMBER 15, 2016


COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: V. Gene Lewter, Assistant Public Defender, Department of Public Advocacy

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear, Attorney General of Kentucky, Todd Dryden Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General

OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE HUGHES

Kenneth Wayne Goben appeals as a matter of right from a Judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court convicting him of manufacturing methamphetamine (Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 218A.1432 ) and first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (methamphetamine) (KRS 218A.1412). Having also found Goben to be a first-degree persistent felony offender (PFO) (KRS 532.080 ), the jury recommended and the Circuit Court imposed PFO-enhanced sentences of life in prison for the manufacturing offense and twenty years in prison for the trafficking offense.1 With respect to the manufacturing charge, the Commonwealth alleged that in the course of searching Goben's apartment and his separate storage locker, police officers found 3.6 grams of methamphetamine along with various chemicals and equipment used in the making of that drug. With respect to the trafficking charge, the Commonwealth alleged that other items found in Goben's apartment and locker—small, zip-lock plastic bags; digital scales; drug-ledger notes; five small, zip-locked baggies with methamphetamine ready for individual sale and two rifles—all implied that Goben possessed the drug with the intent to sell it.

Goben alleges violations of his constitutional rights to a speedy trial and to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. He also contends that the guilt phase of his trial was rendered unfair by the admission of so-called investigative hearsay and by the admission of irrelevant and inflammatory firearm evidence. He maintains that the penalty phase of his trial was tainted by the admission of evidence of a prior conviction that was not yet final. Finally, he complains that the trial court's Judgment incorrectly provides that his life and twenty-year sentences are to be served consecutively. Taking these contentions in reverse order, we agree that the Judgment must be amended to clarify that Goben's life sentence is to be served

503 S.W.3d 896

concurrently with his twenty-year sentence. We agree that hearsay, firearm, and prior-conviction evidence was, or at least may have been, improperly admitted, but conclude these actual or potential errors, one of which was not preserved and one essentially waived, did not bear significantly on the outcome of the trial or on its fundamental fairness and so do not entitle Goben to relief. And despite concern that it took five years to bring Goben to trial and that the police officers initially entered Goben's apartment without a warrant, our careful review of the record convinces us that both the delay and the warrantless entry were justified and did not violate Goben's rights. Accordingly, we affirm the Judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court.

RELEVANT FACTS

Because Goben's principal claims concern the time required to bring him to trial and the trial court's pretrial denial of his motion to suppress the evidence seized from his apartment and his storage locker, our initial summary of the case's procedural history and of the evidence adduced at trial will provide a general background for Goben's main claims. We then address facts relevant to each of his claims in more specific detail below.

According to their testimonies at trial, at about 12:30 a.m. on August 16, 2009, then Louisville–Metro Police Department (LMPD) Officers Joe Heitzman, Tim Stokes,2 and Greg Satterly, all in separate vehicles, received a radio report of a possible stabbing in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 3800 block of Freedom Way in the Okolona area of Louisville. All three officers responded to the dispatch with Heitzman the first to arrive at the scene.

Heitzman testified that his initial impression was that no one was in the apartment complex's poorly lit parking lot, but that soon after he exited his vehicle and began walking through the lot he found a man partly lying on the ground, partly leaning against a pickup truck and covered in blood. Heitzman immediately summoned EMS, and then examined the man to see if he was breathing or in need of immediate first aid. The man appeared to be breathing and conscious, but when Heitzman asked him who he was and what had happened, the man did not respond. Heitzman testified that at that point—he had not been there for more than two minutes—Officer Stokes arrived. Heitzman urged Stokes to try to find out from the injured man what had happened, while he followed a trail of blood spatters, some of which were several inches in circumference, through the parking lot to the base of a stairway leading to the apartment complex's second level. Heitzman identified photographs of what appear to be patches of a dark liquid on pavement amid parked cars as depicting the trail of blood he encountered in the parking lot that morning.

Heitzman testified that he continued to follow the blood trail up the stairway and that on the stairway he observed what seemed to him a trail of a different sort. This was a stairway of riserless treads, and wedged in between two treads a few stairs up from ground level Heitzman saw an athletic shoe. Lying on a stair a few steps above the shoe was the detached leg of a wooden chair. Above the chair leg dangling from the stair's hand railing, Heitzman saw what he thought was a necklace. Above that, and a few steps above the chair leg, on the landing of the second level, he saw a garment that appeared

503 S.W.3d 897

to be a sweatshirt or a jogging suit. A couple of doors on from the landing and the jogging suit, on the second level walkway, Heitzman saw lying on the ground a beverage cup, apparently from a convenience store. On the ground near the mouth of the cup was a spattering of dark spots—possibly spilled beverage or possibly more blood. Again, Heitzman identified photographs of the items that he characterized as a "debris trail," which seemed to end, Heitzman testified, at the open door of apartment number 18. A light was on inside the apartment, but there was no response when Heitzman called in asking if anyone was there.

During cross-examination, Heitzman admitted that the photographs of the stairway and second-level walkway showed nothing like the volume of blood spatters present in the parking lot. He testified, however, that the debris trail suggested the possibility of additional violence and that the open apartment door at that hour was, at that apartment complex (which was within Heitzman's usual beat), highly unusual and suggestive that something was amiss.

Meanwhile, according to the testimony of Officer Stokes, he too had been unable to elicit any information from the injured person, and so, when Officer Satterly arrived at the scene not far behind Officer Stokes, Stokes asked him to stay with the victim until EMS arrived, while he, Stokes, joined Heitzman following the blood trail through the parking lot and the debris trail up the stairs to apartment 18. There he and Heitzman conferred briefly and decided to enter the apartment to look for additional victims or possibly the perpetrator(s) of the assault on the person in the parking lot. Both officers testified that during their brief sweep of the apartment they did not come upon any additional persons, but they did observe in plain view what they believed to be illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.3

The detective assigned to lead the investigation of the case, Detective John White, testified that on the basis of those plain-view observations, which Heitzman and Stokes reported to him, he applied for and obtained a warrant to search the apartment. The ensuing search, as noted, uncovered evidence of methamphetamine production. At that point, narcotics Detective Steve Healy, one of LMPD's two certified site safety officers, and Matthew Vanderpool, a member of the Jefferson County Health Department's Hazardous Materials Team, were called in, respectively, to collect the methamphetamine evidence and to determine whether the apartment had been contaminated by methamphetamine.

Healy testified that in addition to a so-called one-pot methamphetamine "lab"4 and numerous chemicals and pieces of equipment used in making methamphetamine, his investigation revealed that Goben

503 S.W.3d 898

leased a storage locker. Based on the drug evidence found in the apartment, Healy obtained a warrant later that same day to search the storage locker. There he found an empty box of Sudafed tablets (a source of the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine); a large Pyrex flask with valves; two 22 caliber rifles; and ammunition for the rifles. All of these items, rifles included, were shown to the jury and admitted into evidence.

Vanderpool testified that he performed a "meth-check," a sort of methamphetamine residue test,5 on cabinets above the stove in the apartment's kitchen. The result of the test was positive, indicating the presence there of methamphetamine.

Not surprisingly, the...

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23 practice notes
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth, 2016-SC-000484-MR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 13, 2018
    ...recourse, but the alleged violations were not the result of trial delay and so do not add any weight to Goben’s speedy trial claim." 503 S.W.3d 890, 910 (Ky. 2016). In Goben, much of the delay was caused by conflicts and motions to withdraw based on conflicts involving multiple co-defe......
  • Pace v. Commonwealth, 2015-SC-000399-DG 2015-SC-000400-DG.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • March 23, 2017
    ...objectively reasonable basis for believing’ that medical assistance was needed, or persons were in danger." Goben v. Commonwealth , 503 S.W.3d 890, 913 (Ky. 2016) (quoting Michigan v. Fisher , 558 U.S. 45, 47, 130 S.Ct. 546, 175 L.Ed.2d 410 (2009) ).This Court just recently illustrated......
  • Parsons v. Commonwealth, NO. 2019-CA-001219-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 12, 2020
    ...on those findings. As a reviewing court, we must apply the constitutional standards to the facts of the case. Goben v. Commonwealth, 503 S.W.3d 890, 903 (Ky. 2016). This requires us to apply a dual standard of review: "de novo for legal questions and clear error for questions of fact.&......
  • Leach v. Commonwealth, NO. 2015-CA-001598-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • April 7, 2017
    ...based on those findings. As a reviewing court, we must apply constitutional standards to the facts of the case. Goben v. Commonwealth, 503 S.W.3d 890, 903 (Ky. 2016). This requires us to apply a dual standard of review: "de novo for legal questions and clear error for questions of fact......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth, 2016-SC-000484-MR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 13, 2018
    ...recourse, but the alleged violations were not the result of trial delay and so do not add any weight to Goben’s speedy trial claim." 503 S.W.3d 890, 910 (Ky. 2016). In Goben, much of the delay was caused by conflicts and motions to withdraw based on conflicts involving multiple co-defe......
  • Pace v. Commonwealth, 2015-SC-000399-DG 2015-SC-000400-DG.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • March 23, 2017
    ...objectively reasonable basis for believing’ that medical assistance was needed, or persons were in danger." Goben v. Commonwealth , 503 S.W.3d 890, 913 (Ky. 2016) (quoting Michigan v. Fisher , 558 U.S. 45, 47, 130 S.Ct. 546, 175 L.Ed.2d 410 (2009) ).This Court just recently illustrated......
  • Parsons v. Commonwealth, NO. 2019-CA-001219-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 12, 2020
    ...on those findings. As a reviewing court, we must apply the constitutional standards to the facts of the case. Goben v. Commonwealth, 503 S.W.3d 890, 903 (Ky. 2016). This requires us to apply a dual standard of review: "de novo for legal questions and clear error for questions of fact.&......
  • Leach v. Commonwealth, NO. 2015-CA-001598-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • April 7, 2017
    ...based on those findings. As a reviewing court, we must apply constitutional standards to the facts of the case. Goben v. Commonwealth, 503 S.W.3d 890, 903 (Ky. 2016). This requires us to apply a dual standard of review: "de novo for legal questions and clear error for questions of fact......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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