State v. Couch, 122,156

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kansas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesState of Kansas, Appellee, v. Michael Wayne Couch, Appellant.
Docket Number122,156
Decision Date19 August 2022

State of Kansas, Appellee,

Michael Wayne Couch, Appellant.

No. 122,156

Court of Appeals of Kansas

August 19, 2022


Appeal from Finney District Court; MICHAEL L. QUINT, judge.

Kai Tate Mann, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.

Tamara S. Hicks, assistant county attorney, Susan Hillier Richmeier, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.




A jury convicted Michael Wayne Couch of three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, one count of rape, one count of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of aggravated battery. The district court sentenced Couch to 1,306 months in prison and ordered him to pay $3,962.81 in restitution, as well as $31,612.50 in attorney fees to the Board of Indigents' Defense Service (BIDS) and other court costs and fees. Couch appeals his convictions and sentence, arguing: (1) The district court abused its discretion by not allowing him to represent himself at trial; (2) the evidence of aggravated kidnapping was insufficient to


convict; (3) the district court should have instructed the jury on a lesser included offense of aggravated battery; (4) cumulative error deprived him of a fair trial; (5) Kansas' criminal restitution statutes violate section 5 of the Kansas Constitution; (6) the restitution statutes violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000); and (7) the district court erred when it ordered him to pay BIDS attorney fees.

With the exception of his claim pertaining to BIDS fees, the issues presented do not entitle Crouch to the relief he seeks. Thus, we affirm his convictions, sentence, and restitution obligation, but we vacate the district court's imposition of the BIDS attorney fees.


On the morning of December 18, 2018, H.D. ran several errands around Garden City. She briefly stopped at Walmart around 10:30 a.m. and then drove home. Michael Wayne Couch noticed H.D. leaving the store and followed her home.

Soon after H.D. walked into her house, she heard the garage entry door open, so she walked over to close it. When she reached the door, however, Couch, who was a stranger to her, barged into the home, pinned H.D. against the kitchen sink, and held a knife to her throat. H.D. fell to the ground screaming for help, but Couch threatened to harm her if she continued yelling. About that time, H.D. and Couch both noticed cuts to H.D.'s hands, which prompted Couch to spew a series of expletives. He allowed H.D. to clean and bandage her wounds and, after she did so, Couch grabbed her arm and dragged her from the kitchen, down the hallway, and into the master bedroom.

Couch shoved H.D. onto the master bed, unbuckled her belt, then pulled her pants and underwear off. He demanded that H.D. perform oral sex on him but became


frustrated when he could not maintain an erection, so he forced his fingers into her vagina instead and threatened her with a knife if she was noncompliant with his demands. Couch then penetrated H.D.'s vagina with his penis. At this point in the attack, H.D. noticed three swastika tattoos on Couch's torso and had a clear view of his face and clothing. Unable to maintain an erection Couch grew increasingly frustrated, so he retrieved H.D.'s toothbrush from her bathroom and forcefully anally sodomized H.D. with it. H.D. pleaded for Couch to stop so he inexplicably directed her into the bathroom and put lotion on her hand. He then forced her back into the bedroom, threatened to inflict harm on her if she failed to "finish the job," and again demanded that she perform oral sex on him.

Couch told H.D. that his name was Michael, then wrapped her in the bed comforter and told her that her husband paid him to rape her. Couch yanked H.D.'s iPhone and Apple Watch chargers from the wall outlet, used them to bind her hands and feet, then left the bedroom. H.D. waited until she heard Couch leave the home then freed herself free from the restraints using the pocketknife Couch left behind. She called her husband to tell him what happened followed by a call to 911. H.D. then armed herself with her husband's handgun and hid in the closet until police arrived.

H.D. underwent a sexual assault examination at the hospital, which yielded evidence consistent with the rape and sodomy she reported. The police used H.D.'s report and video footage from the Walmart parking lot to search for her assailant. Three days later, an officer at the Goodland Police Department responded to a call at the town's Motel 6, where they met Couch. The officers ran the license plate on a truck Couch was driving and learned it was stolen so they impounded the vehicle. Authorities' subsequent search of the truck yielded clothes matching those from H.D.'s report and a bottle of the Bath and Body Works lotion he used during the assault. DNA testing performed as part of the investigation revealed that Couch was likely the source of blood recovered from the pocketknife and parts of H.D.'s home.


Couch was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy and one count each of rape, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and aggravated battery.

Prior to trial, Couch filed a motion to exercise his right to self-representation. During the court's hearing on that motion Couch explained that he was "tired of lawyers," and that his appointed attorneys accused him of committing the crimes, then listed the deficiencies he believed plagued the State's case against him. When Couch's attorney addressed the court, Couch threatened to "bite [her] fucking face off." The district court asked Couch about his education level and Couch replied that he graduated high school. When the court inquired whether Couch had any legal training, Couch simply joked, "Illegal, that's it." The court then remarked:

"Mr. Couch, I'm going to make the finding that you are not competent even in your own case to represent yourself for purposes of trial. The concern I have is that you have on numerous occasions in my presence spoke out at a time when other people were talking or trying to present their position to the court. You have effectively threatened your own attorney here in today's hearing and, frankly, I'm not sure that the victim's-crime victim portion of the Kansas constitution would allow you personally to interview or question the alleged victim in this matter, that that would be a violation of her rights. That's not something that's been adjudicated in the State of Kansas, but certainly I think at this point it's likely that you would not be able to complete that testimony or cross-examination of-of the purported victim. Court is not going to grant your request for pro se representation."

The district court also warned Couch that further outbursts during trial would result in his removal from the courtroom. On the journal entry following the motions hearing, the court noted it denied Couch's motion based on his "lack of restraint and understanding of the full scope of defenses that are available to him at his upcoming trial." The court vested Couch's counsel with exclusive authority to examine the State's witnesses and present evidence on his behalf. Later, during another pretrial hearing, Couch requested to remain in his jail jumpsuit and restraints during trial because he


feared he would strangle someone if left unrestrained. When the prosecutor questioned Couch about his request, Couch repeatedly told him to "fuck off" and explained, "I will just go off and start strangling and cutting people up and raping and . . . if I can steal anything in here, I'll steal it. Fuck off." Couch again requested to defend himself, but the court cited its earlier decision to prohibit that course of action.

On the first day of trial, before the jury entered the courtroom, Couch asked to submit a motion to the court and then immediately remarked, "I still agree-I speak for everyone in this courtroom-that the prosecution is a bitch. That is my motion." The court warned Couch that similar comments would prompt his removal from the courtroom. Couch again requested to defend himself and the court again denied his request. Shortly after the trial began, Couch became frustrated and attempted to leave the courtroom. The judge ordered his removal and placement in a separate room where he could observe his trial via closed-circuit television. Couch remained physically absent from the courtroom until the fourth day of trial when he testified in his own defense.

During the instructions conference the State requested several amendments to the model instructions for each count. The defense did not object to any of the proposals. During the oral pronouncement of the instructions for the jury, the court explained that with respect to count six, the aggravated battery charge, the State carried the burden to prove that Couch knowingly caused great bodily harm to H.D. and that "knowingly" meant he was aware of the circumstances in which he was acting. It did not instruct on any lesser included offenses. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.

The district court sentenced Couch to a controlling 1,306-month prison term followed by lifetime postrelease supervision and ordered him to pay $3,968.84 in restitution to the Kansas Crime Victims Compensation Board and $31,612.50 to BIDS for the representation he received. Regarding the BIDS attorney fees, the judge specifically stated:

"I don't anticipate that Mr. Couch will ever be able to afford to pay even the small- smallest proportion of the obligations that he has incurred here. But to be honest with you, I think it is only fair in part to require that he reimburse the expenses of the trial and the expenses as it relates to other

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT