State v. Frantz
|30 December 2022
|STATE of Kansas, Appellee, v. Barbara Marie FRANTZ, Appellant.
|Kansas Supreme Court
Joseph A. Desch, of Law Office of Joseph A. Desch, of Topeka, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant, and Barbara Frantz, appellant pro se, was on the supplemental brief.
Kristafer Ailslieger, deputy solicitor general, argued the cause, and Shawn M. Boyd, deputy county attorney, Todd Thompson, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the briefs for appellee.
Barbara Marie Frantz appeals her conviction for the first-degree premeditated murder of her estranged husband, Gary. Frantz asks this court to reverse her conviction, arguing: (1) the district court violated her Sixth Amendment rights when it imposed limits on her cross-examination of a State's witness; (2) the district court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's evidence; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction. Acting pro se, Frantz also filed a second brief raising several other claims of error.
For the reasons discussed more fully in this opinion, we first conclude the district court's limits on cross-examination were reasonable and did not constitute an abuse of discretion or otherwise deprive Frantz of her confrontation rights under the Sixth Amendment. Second, the State presented evidence during its case sufficient to establish a prima facie case of first-degree, premeditated murder against Frantz. Third, our review of the record confirms the evidence at trial was sufficient to support the jury's verdict. Finally, we hold the issues Frantz raised in her pro se brief fail to demonstrate error. Thus, we affirm her conviction.
At around 8:30 p.m. on January 27, 2017, Officer Ezekiel Stevenson of the Leavenworth Police Department was dispatched to the Stove Loft Apartments in response to reports that shots had been fired. He found Gary Frantz lying in a parking lot across the street from the apartment complex. Gary had suffered six gunshot wounds, including a sucking chest wound
, and he was having difficulty breathing. Gary was surrounded by several fellow Stove Loft tenants when Officer Stevenson arrived at the scene.
Officer Stevenson began administering first aid and questioning Gary about the shooting. Body camera footage recorded the following exchange between Officer Stevenson and Gary:
About a minute later, Stevenson again asked, "Why did your wife shoot you?" and Gary said, "I don't know." After several minutes, Gary was no longer speaking. He eventually succumbed to his injuries.
Around midnight, law enforcement went to the apartment of Frantz' and Gary's son, Patrick Frantz. They informed Patrick that Gary had died two hours earlier, and they believed Frantz had shot him. While police were at his apartment, Patrick called his maternal grandmother, Rosella Reece, to tell her what had happened. Neither Patrick nor Reece knew Frantz' whereabouts.
After the shooting, law enforcement was on the lookout for Frantz' silver two-door Hyundai Genesis. In the early morning hours of January 28, 2017, they found Frantz' car parked in the driveway of Reece's home in Burlingame. Frantz was still in the car, and law enforcement took her into custody.
Law enforcement recovered eight shell casings from the crime scene. The shell casings were the same type of ammunition that law enforcement found during a search of Frantz' apartment. During that search, law enforcement also found a box for a 9-millimeter handgun with a spent casing inside. A firearm tool mark examiner later determined the eight shell casings from the crime scene and the spent casing found in Frantz' apartment had all been fired from the same gun. But the gun was never located.
The State charged Frantz with the first-degree premeditated murder of Gary. Before trial, Frantz filed a motion to present evidence of an alternative perpetrator. In the motion, she noted some Stove Loft tenants originally described the shooter as a white man, so Frantz wished to present evidence that Patrick was the shooter. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted Frantz' motion.
At Frantz' trial, at least a half dozen tenants of the Stove Loft Apartments testified to witnessing events related to the shooting. Those tenants said they heard several gunshots, a pause, and then several more gunshots. Several tenants said they looked out their window and saw a larger man being chased by a smaller person who was shooting at him. Witnesses generally described the shooter as white and slim, with short hair and wearing a cap. Because the shooter had short hair, one witness originally believed the shooter was a man, but she was "not going to bet [her] life on that." Another witness said the shooter appeared to be a young adult or woman. Several witnesses also testified to seeing the shooter get into a silver or light-colored two-door car before driving off. And one of those witnesses was also able to identify the make of the car as a Hyundai.
After the shooting, several tenants went outside to help Gary. Three tenants testified that before police arrived, they asked Gary who had shot him, and Gary said his wife shot him. And four tenants testified that Gary gave the same response when police later asked him the same question.
At trial, only one tenant, Debra Raynal, identified Frantz and placed her at the crime scene. Raynal testified she went to her window after hearing gunshots on the night of the shooting. She saw someone walking toward a light-colored two-door car. The person got in the car and drove north. Raynal assumed the person was a young man because of the person's clothing and short hair. When police arrived on the scene, Raynal went outside and told them she had seen a young, white man in his 20's.
Despite the initial description she had given to police, Raynal later identified Frantz as the person she saw fleeing the crime scene after the shooting. Raynal testified she first recognized Frantz in the courtroom during a prior motions hearing. Raynal explained she was able to identify Frantz at that time because she could see Frantz' build and view Frantz' face in profile. According to Raynal, this was important because on the night of the shooting, she had observed only the profile of the perpetrator's face. Before that motions hearing, Raynal had seen Frantz' picture in the newspaper but had not recognized Frantz as the shooter because the photographs showed only a frontal view of Frantz' face.
The State also called Patrick as a witness. Patrick testified he had moved into an apartment in the Legends area of Kansas City, Kansas, with his parents in May 2014. In early 2016, Gary and Frantz separated, and Frantz moved into another apartment near the Legends. Later that year, Gary and Patrick moved into separate apartments in Leavenworth. By early 2017, Patrick did not have much of a relationship with either of his parents and had little to no contact with them in the weeks before the shooting.
According to Patrick, Frantz "had a few delusional ideas." She believed Gary was trying to poison her. She also believed Patrick and Gary were trying to collect a settlement from KU behind her back. Patrick said he had no knowledge of Gary trying to poison Frantz.
Patrick said he went with Frantz to buy a 9-millimeter handgun in October 2016. He also took her to a shooting range the same day to show her how to load and safely handle the gun. He and his mother went shooting one other time before Thanksgiving 2016. The only other time Patrick handled the gun was when he cleaned it at his mother's apartment.
Patrick testified he worked at the front desk of a hotel near the Legends, and on the night of the shooting, he had worked from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. A timecard showed Patrick had clocked into work that day at 2:59 p.m. and clocked out at 11:09 p.m. Patrick testified it took him about 20 to 25 minutes to drive home from work, so he would have arrived at his home in Leavenworth around 11:30 p.m. on the night of the shooting.
When law enforcement notified him of Gary's death later that night, Patrick said he was distressed that his father had been murdered. He said he knew his mother was responsible, even before the officers told him she was a suspect, because she is the only one who would want to harm Gary.
Frantz fully explored several theories of impeachment during Patrick's cross-examination. Though he told police he had not been in contact with Gary for months, Patrick admitted he sent angry text messages to Gary about a week before the shooting. Gary had a set of Patrick's keys, and Patrick wanted Gary to return the keys in person. Instead, Gary left the keys under a statue outside Patrick's apartment. This angered Patrick because someone could have stolen the keys, and he expressed that anger in a couple of text messages. Patrick explained he had forgotten about those messages until prosecutors showed them to him.
Similarly, Patrick said he had not been in contact with Frantz since Thanksgiving 2016. And he told police he cut off contact with Frantz because she had attacked him. But on cross-examination, Patrick admitted Frantz called the police that Thanksgiving because he would not leave her apartment. Patrick also admitted that Gary had called 911 to...
To continue readingRequest your trial
State v. Dishner
... ... State v. Akins, 298 ... Kan. 592, Syl. ¶ 6, 315 P.3d 868 (2014). We examine ... these claims of prosecutorial overreach using an error and ... prejudice standard first outlined in State v ... Sherman, 305 Kan. 88, 109, 378 P.3d 1060 (2016). See ... State v. Frantz, 316 Kan. 708, 745, 521 P.3d 1113 ... (2022) (reiterating and applying Sherman standard ... for prosecutorial error) ... The ... Sherman analytical model first considers whether an ... error has occurred and then weighs any prejudice to the ... ...
State v. Knight
... ... commits error, if he or she misstates the law" during ... closing argument). We examine claims a prosecutor has done so ... using an error and prejudice standard first outlined in ... State v. Sherman, 305 Kan. 88, 109, 378 P.3d 1060 ... (2016). See State v. Frantz, 316 Kan. 708, 745, 521 ... P.3d 1113 (2022) (reiterating and applying Sherman ... standard for prosecutorial error) ... The ... Sherman analytical model first considers whether an ... error has occurred and then weighs any prejudice to the ... ...
State v. Waisner
... ... find error, we then determine whether the error prejudiced ... Waisner's due process rights to a fair trial. To show ... harmless error, the State must show no reasonable possibility ... that the error contributed to the verdict. State v ... Frantz , 316 Kan. 708, 745, 521 P.3d 1113 (2022) ... The ... prosecutor did not comment on facts not in evidence while ... reviewing the swimming incident ... Waisner ... first contends that in the State's closing argument, the ... ...
- State v. Richardson