State v. Gleason, No. 97,296

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Writing for the CourtThe opinion of the court was delivered by Biles, J.
Citation388 P.3d 101
Parties State of Kansas, Appellee, v. Sidney J. Gleason, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 97,296
Decision Date03 February 2017

388 P.3d 101

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Sidney J. Gleason, Appellant.

No. 97,296

Supreme Court of Kansas.

February 3, 2017


Sarah Ellen Johnson, of Capital Appellate Defender Office, and Meryl Carver–Allmond and Rebecca E. Woodman, of the same office, were on the briefs for appellant.

Kristafer R. Ailslieger, deputy solicitor general, and Natalie Chalmers, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the briefs for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by Biles, J.:

This case returns after the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded our penalty-phase determination in State v. Gleason , 299 Kan. 1127, 329 P.3d 1102 (2014) (Gleason I ), rev'd and remanded sub nom. Kansas v. Carr , 577 U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 633, 193 L.Ed.2d 535 (2016). That requires us to address the unresolved penalty-phase issues from Sidney J. Gleason's capital murder trial. As explained, Gleason is not entitled to relief on those issues, so we affirm his death sentence.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A jury convicted Gleason of capital murder for the killings of Darren Wornkey and his girlfriend, Mikiala "Miki" Martinez, as well as premeditated first-degree murder for killing Wornkey, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and criminal possession of a firearm. In a separate penalty phase, the same jury sentenced Gleason to death for the capital offense. See K.S.A. 21–3439(a)(6) (defining capital murder as the "intentional and premediated killing of more than one person as a part of the same act or transaction or in two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or course of conduct").

These crimes were more fully detailed in our earlier decision. See Gleason I , 299 Kan. at 1134–46, 329 P.3d 1102. As explained there, Gleason and Damien Thompson were involved with Martinez in an aggravated robbery. Fearing that Martinez was talking with law enforcement about the robbery, Gleason and Thompson tried to intimidate her. In doing so, Gleason shot and killed Wornkey. A short time later, Thompson shot and killed Martinez. After their arrests, Thompson agreed to plead guilty to the first-degree murder of Martinez, disclose the location of her body, and testify against Gleason. In return, the State agreed to recommend certain sentencing terms and dismiss the remaining charges against Thompson. This resulted in Thompson receiving a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

Gleason appealed his convictions and death sentence. A divided court affirmed Gleason's convictions of capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and criminal possession of a firearm. 299 Kan. at 1184, 329 P.3d 1102. Also by a divided vote, the court vacated Gleason's death sentence, holding that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution required informing Gleason's jury that mitigating circumstances

388 P.3d 105

need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. 299 Kan. at 1197, 329 P.3d 1102.

On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, the Court reversed and remanded with one dissent. The Court held the Eighth Amendment did not require Kansas juries in a death penalty case to be advised the defendant was not required to prove mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. Carr , 136 S.Ct. at 642 ("[O]ur case law does not require capital sentencing courts ‘to affirmatively inform the jury that mitigating circumstances need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.’ "). Gleason's case returned to this court for further proceedings because there were unresolved penalty-phase issues. See 136 S.Ct. at 646 (remanding case); Gleason I , 299 Kan. at 1199, 329 P.3d 1102 (declining to address Gleason's remaining challenges to sentence after concluding jury instruction issue was dispositive).

Shortly after that, Gleason filed a motion, asking us to affirm our original holding about the burden-of-proof instruction for mitigating factors on the basis of state law. He also moved for supplemental briefing. The State opposed both motions. We invited further briefing at the parties' option. We also asked if additional oral argument was necessary.

Gleason submitted a supplemental brief on some unresolved issues and adopted by reference his earlier arguments as to others. The State advised more briefing was unnecessary, arguing there was no new controlling authority since Gleason I . The State also opposed further oral argument. Gleason did not explicitly request oral argument or contend it would be beneficial. He only stated he would "welcome the opportunity" to address the court.

It should be noted we considered sua sponte revisiting the trial errors rejected by the Gleason I majority, particularly the claim that the district court violated Gleason's constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him and the related question whether the district court erred by not declaring a mistrial after a witness was declared unavailable to testify at trial. This sua sponte consideration occurred in the context of addressing the dissents' arguments below. Ultimately, a majority of the court determined revisiting these questions was inappropriate given Gleason's failure on remand to request reconsideration and because no exception to the law of the case doctrine was applicable. See State v. Kleypas , 305 Kan. 224, 245, 382 P.3d 373 (2016) ( Kleypas II ) (applying law of the case doctrine in death penalty case and noting only three exceptions to that doctrine: [1] a subsequent trial produces substantially different evidence, [2] a controlling authority has made a contrary decision regarding the law applicable to the issues, or [3] the prior decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice).

Accordingly, the outstanding issues are: (1) whether it was reversible error under state law not to instruct jurors that mitigating circumstances need to be proven only to the individual juror's satisfaction and not beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether the death penalty is unconstitutionally disproportionate under § 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights as applied to an offender category to which Gleason claims to belong, namely "non-triggerman" accomplices; (3) whether Gleason's death sentence is unconstitutionally disproportionate in comparison to his accomplice's sentence; (4) whether Gleason's death sentence is contrary to the aiding and abetting statute, K.S.A. 21–3205 ; (5) whether the district court erred in giving a pre-Kleypas I instruction about the weighing equation under K.S.A. 21–4624(e) ; (6) whether the district court committed clear error when instructing the jury about the sentence Gleason would receive if the jury decided not to impose the death penalty; (7) whether the penalty-phase verdict forms protected Gleason's right to be free from double jeopardy; and (8) whether any cumulative error requires reversal of the death sentence.

After conducting our own research and fully considering the original and supplemental briefs, we conclude further oral argument is unnecessary. As explained, we hold the remaining issues do not warrant reversal or remand.

THE JURY INSTRUCTION ON MITIGATION

In his motion for a ruling under state law, Gleason argued we should affirm our

388 P.3d 106

prior holding that the district court's failure to provide an affirmative instruction that mitigating factors need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt required vacating his death sentence. But a motion requesting a specific holding from this court is unusual. And to the extent Gleason advanced a new claim in this motion, he chose the "wrong procedural vehicle to obtain his requested relief." State v. Cheever , 304 Kan. 866, 875–76, 375 P.3d 979 (2016) (Cheever II ) (motion practice cannot be used as end run around rules of appellate procedure). Accordingly, we deny Gleason's motion, although that does not end the question.

We note Gleason's motion was coupled with a motion for supplemental briefing, which we granted. And K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21–6619(b) requires this court in death penalty cases to "consider ... any errors asserted in the review and appeal" and authorizes us to notice unassigned errors if doing so serves the "ends of justice." So based on the relevant statute and the unique circumstances of this case, we will treat Gleason's arguments as if they had been raised in his supplemental brief. See Cheever II , 304 Kan. at 876–77, 375 P.3d 979 (holding that although Cheever chose "the wrong procedural vehicle to obtain his requested relief" the issue would be considered because this is a death penalty case and K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21–6619 applies).

Gleason first argues the state law references in our 2014 decision were central to the outcome, overturning his death sentence due to the absence of a burden of proof explanation for the mitigation instruction. He contends Gleason I 's holding on this point was based "on issues unique to Kansas state law," rather than the Eighth Amendment. The upshot, he asserts, is that the United States Supreme Court's decision reversing Gleason I is not binding and that we are free to ignore it.

But this disregards both Gleason's previous arguments in Gleason I and what we said when deciding the case. Gleason's original brief declared: "[T]he specific question is whether the...

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3 practice notes
  • State v. Kirkland, 122
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • January 7, 2022
    ...a challenge to statute's constitutionality if the claimed defect does not apply to that party." State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, Syl. ¶ 5, 388 P.3d 101 (2017). True, the insanity defense provided in K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5209's first sentence (establishing an insanity defense when the defenda......
  • State v. Morgan, 123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • August 20, 2021
    ...if Morgan's K.S.A. 60-1507 motion raised a mistrial claim, that claim constitutes a trial error. See State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, 797, 388 P.3d 101 (2017) (labeling the "question whether the district court erred by not declaring a mistrial" as a trial error). Likely recognizing this road......
  • State v. Morgan, 123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • August 20, 2021
    ...if Morgan's K.S.A. 60-1507 motion raised a mistrial claim, that claim constitutes a trial error. See State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, 797, 388 P.3d 101 (2017) (labeling the "question whether the district court erred by not declaring a mistrial" as a trial error). Likely recognizing this road......
4 cases
  • State v. Kirkland, 122
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • January 7, 2022
    ...a challenge to statute's constitutionality if the claimed defect does not apply to that party." State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, Syl. ¶ 5, 388 P.3d 101 (2017). True, the insanity defense provided in K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5209's first sentence (establishing an insanity defense when the defenda......
  • State v. Kirkland, 122,971
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • January 7, 2022
    ...a challenge to statute's constitutionality if the claimed defect does not apply to that party." State v. Gleason , 305 Kan. 794, Syl. ¶ 5, 388 P.3d 101 (2017).True, the insanity defense provided in K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 21-5209's first sentence (establishing an insanity defense when the defenda......
  • State v. Morgan, 123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • August 20, 2021
    ...if Morgan's K.S.A. 60-1507 motion raised a mistrial claim, that claim constitutes a trial error. See State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, 797, 388 P.3d 101 (2017) (labeling the "question whether the district court erred by not declaring a mistrial" as a trial error). Likely recognizing this road......
  • State v. Morgan, 123
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • August 20, 2021
    ...if Morgan's K.S.A. 60-1507 motion raised a mistrial claim, that claim constitutes a trial error. See State v. Gleason, 305 Kan. 794, 797, 388 P.3d 101 (2017) (labeling the "question whether the district court erred by not declaring a mistrial" as a trial error). Likely recognizing this road......

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