State ex rel. Jackson Cnty. Prosecuting Attorney v. Prokes

Decision Date20 December 2011
Docket NumberNo. WD 72996.,WD 72996.
Citation363 S.W.3d 71
PartiesSTATE of Missouri ex rel., JACKSON COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, Relator, v. The Honorable Roger PROKES, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals


Supreme Court Denied Jan. 31, 2012.

Application for Transfer Denied

May 1, 2012.

Tim E. Dollar and Michael J. Hunt, Kansas City, MO, for Relator.

Richard W. Johnson and Patrick W. Peters, Kansas City, MO, for Respondent.


GARY D. WITT, Judge.

Relator State of Missouri, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney (State), filed a writ of prohibition asking us to prohibit the Honorable Judge Roger Prokes, sitting as a special judge in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, from enforcing his order, whereby he excluded all evidence in State v. Richard Buchli, II, Case No. 16CR02–00434. We issued a preliminary writ so prohibiting Judge Prokes (trial court or court).

The issue presented here is whether the State is entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a writ of prohibition based on the trial court's order that sustained, in part, Buchli's motion for show-cause hearing and sanctions. Because the trial court's detailed factual findings (to which we owe deference) support the trial court's order, the State's request for permanent relief in this writ is denied. Ultimately, the State has failed to make the requisite showing before this Court that “the trial court's ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances then before the court and is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.” Anglim v. Missouri Pac. R.R., 832 S.W.2d 298, 303 (Mo. banc 1992).

The expansive and egregious history of the violations of the mandatory rules of discovery is indisputable; thus, the only question becomes whether the trial court abused its discretion in the remedy it imposed. We cannot find that under the extreme circumstances of this case that it did. Accordingly, the preliminary order in prohibition is quashed, as improvidently granted, and the permanent writ is denied.

Factual Background

The State charged Defendant Richard Buchli with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May 2000, alleging that Buchli murdered his law partner, Richard Armitage, in their office. This writ involves pretrial discovery issues that arose after Buchli's original conviction was reversed and remanded for a new trial. In the prior proceedings, the motion court granted Buchli's motion for post-conviction relief on the ground that, in failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, the State had violated Buchli's rights under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) (holding that the non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence violates the Due Process clause). On appeal, this Court affirmed the motion court's judgment. Buchli v. State, 242 S.W.3d 449, 456 (Mo.App. W.D.2007).

The case was remanded for a new trial on January 22, 2008, and, on June 6, 2008, Judge Prokes was assigned as a special judge to preside over the retrial. Buchli requested discovery pursuant to Rule 25.03.1 In February of 2009, one of the assistant prosecutors assigned to the case informed the Court that, due to the misconduct of another assistant prosecutor then assigned to this matter, the parties and the court could not rely on the State's prior discovery responses as being either accurate or complete.

On June 2, 2010, because of a plethora of issues that had arisen pertaining to the State's failure to comply with the rules of discovery (which will be more fully outlined in the analysis section below), Judge Prokes entered a very specific discovery order (“the discovery order”).2 This writ proceeding concerns the details of how and why the State violated this unambiguous discovery order.

The discovery order required the State to produce fifteen specific categories of documents and/or information to Buchli on or before July 20, 2010, and the discovery order required the State to file with the court a statement that it had complied with the discovery order. Due in part to the State's admission that the prior discovery responses from the State should not be relied upon, the discovery order, among other things, required the State to create a master file of all discovery in this matter.

The State did not comply with the terms of the discovery order and it did not file a certificate of compliance by July 20, 2010, as required. Judge Prokes then sent an e-mail to the parties, stating that he was “assuming discovery ... is proceeding in anticipation of [the] January 2011 court dates.... I want this tried on those dates. If any issue arises that requires my resolution or guidance, please immediately contact me.” The State did not respond to this communication.

On August 10, 2010, Buchli filed a motion for a show-cause hearing and for sanctions, requesting that the State be directed to show cause why all evidence should not be excluded by virtue of its failure to adhere to the clear mandates of the discovery order.

On September 8, 2010, approximately fifty days after the State was to have complied with the discovery order, the trial court held a show-cause hearing. The State conceded at the show-cause hearing that it had not complied with the discovery order on or before July 20, 2010, and that it had still not complied, in many respects, with the discovery order as of the show-cause hearing date.

On September 22, 2010, the trial court entered its order, striking all of the State's evidence in this case (“exclusion order”). The court found that the State had failed to comply with paragraphs 1–5, 7, 9–11, and 13–17 of the discovery order.

The State then filed a writ of prohibition, requesting this Court to prohibit Judge Prokes from enforcing the exclusion order. We granted a preliminary writ, and the parties filed legal briefs with this Court.

Further facts will be outlined as necessary in the analysis section below.

Standard of Review

The extraordinary remedy of a writ of prohibition is available: (1) to prevent the usurpation of judicial power when the trial court lacks authority or jurisdiction; (2) to remedy an excess of authority, jurisdiction[,] or abuse of discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended; or (3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted.State ex rel. Mo. Pub. Defender Comm'n v. Pratte, 298 S.W.3d 870, 880 (Mo. banc 2009). A writ of prohibition will lie when the trial court abuses its discretion during the discovery process. State ex rel. City of Springfield v. Brown, 181 S.W.3d 219, 221 (Mo.App. S.D.2005). “Judicial discretion is abused when the trial court's ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances then before the court and is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.” Anglim, 832 S.W.2d at 303.

Because we review a trial court's order addressing a discovery violation for an abuse of discretion, we afford the trial court's factual findings the deference required by Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). State ex rel. Sisco v. Buford, 559 S.W.2d 747, 748 (Mo. banc 1978). Accordingly, we will accept as true the factual findings that underpin the trial court's order imposing a remedy or sanction for a discovery violation, unless the factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence or are against the weight of the evidence. Murphy, 536 S.W.2d at 32.

Buchli's Due Process Right To Discovery

“The broad rights of discovery afforded criminal defendants by our Rule 25 have constitutional underpinning rooted in due process.” State v. Wilkinson, 606 S.W.2d 632, 636 (Mo. banc 1980); see also Merriweather v. State, 294 S.W.3d 52, 55 (Mo. banc 2009) (“The due process implications of a failure to disclose potentially exculpatory material render Merriweather's claim of a Rule 25.03 violation an issue of ‘fundamental fairness.’). Indeed, compliance with the discovery rules is not discretionary because “the rules of criminal discovery are not mere etiquette but the festoons of due process.” State v. Stapleton, 539 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo.App.1976). “The discovery rules seek to foster informed pleas, expedited trials, a minimum of surprise, and the opportunity for effective cross-examination,” and the State's failure to comply with the applicable discovery rules “serve[s] only to thwart these goals.” State v. Wells, 639 S.W.2d 563, 566 (Mo. banc 1982).

“The basic object of the discovery process in criminal proceedings is to permit [the] defendant a decent opportunity to prepare in advance of trial and avoid surprise, thus extending to him fundamental fairness which the adversary system aims to provide.” State v. Scott, 647 S.W.2d 601, 606 (Mo.App. W.D.1983). “Where the state has failed to respond promptly and fully to the defendant's disclosure request, the question is whether the failure has resulted in fundamental unfairness or prejudice to the defendant. Id. (Emphasis added.)

Rule 25 sets forth in detail what items the State “shall” disclose to the defendant. Because it is not seriously in dispute that the State violated Rule 25 in multiple regards, we will not spend time outlining its clear, unambiguous, and well-known mandates. Rather, we will focus on the language pertaining to “Sanctions” in Rule 25.18, which provides the following:

If at any time during the course of the proceeding it is brought to the attention of the court that a party has failed to comply with an applicable discovery rule or an order issued pursuant thereto, the court may order such party to...

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  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
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    ...violation, the Court must follow the mandates of our applicable law. See Rule 25.18; see also State ex rel. Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney v. Prokes, 363 S.W.3d 71 (Mo.App. W.D.2011). If, on the other hand, the trial court intended to issue a Franks order, the following should be noted......
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