State v. Hayes, 72074

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Citation258 Kan. 629,908 P.2d 597
Docket NumberNo. 72074,72074
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellee, v. Michael S. HAYES, Appellant.
Decision Date08 December 1995

Syllabus by the Court

1. The purpose of the voir dire examination of prospective jurors is to enable the parties to select competent jurors who are without bias, prejudice, or partiality.

2. Whether ruling on challenges for cause or the scope or extent of questioning during voir dire, trial courts should consider special circumstances that may be present.

3. The trial court has broad discretion in controlling voir dire.

4. The record is reviewed and it is held the trial court did not act arbitrarily, fancifully, or unreasonably in restricting defendant's inquiry into the specific opinions of prospective jurors as to defendant's guilt or innocence.

5. The special appellate review provisions of K.S.A.1993 Supp. 21-4627 were enacted when the legislature created the hard 40 sentence and are not applicable under the facts of this case.

Charles M. Tuley, Atchison, was on the brief for appellant.

Allen A. Ternent, County Attorney, argued the cause, and Patrick E. Henderson, Special Prosecutor, and Carla J. Stovall, Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee.

SIX, Justice:

This case focuses on defendant's claim that his counsel was improperly restricted by the trial court in the voir dire examination of potential jurors.

Michael S. Hayes was convicted of first-degree murder, K.S.A.1993 Supp. 21-3401; aggravated robbery, K.S.A.1993 Supp. 21-3427; and conspiracy to commit robbery, K.S.A.1993 Supp. 21-3302 and K.S.A.1993 Supp. 21-3426. Hayes' counsel waived oral argument and submitted the case on the brief. Our jurisdiction is under K.S.A.1993 Supp. 22-3601(b)(1) (an appeal from conviction of an off-grid crime). Hayes' appeal, along with State v. Cox, 258 Kan. 557, 908 P.2d 603, and State v. Vincent, 258 Kan. 694, 908 P.2d 619 (1995), arise from the July 30, 1993, carjacking and murder of Marcus Smith. Hayes was tried separately. Damon Cox, Carrie Vincent, Stefan Wheeler, and Jared Owens were tried together. The five defendants are referred to as the group.

We find no error and affirm.

FACTS

The events surrounding Hayes' convictions are set out in Cox. Additional facts relating to the voir dire issues are referenced herein.

Neither Hayes nor Cox testified. Vincent, Wheeler, and Owens testified for the State; however, none said they witnessed the shooting.

The group sped away from the scene together in four cars (their three and the victim's). Hayes, then 17, was stopped by a police roadblock and taken into custody. He was certified to be tried as an adult. His counsel filed a pretrial motion to change venue due to extensive publicity. The trial court denied the motion three weeks before the case went to trial.

After the jury returned guilty verdicts,Hayes moved for a new trial, alleging that his motion to change venue should have been granted and that the trial court unduly restricted his voir dire of prospective jurors. The trial court denied the new trial motion.

DISCUSSION
Restrictions on Voir Dire

Hayes contends that the trial court unduly restricted voir dire, thus preventing his counsel from inquiring into the specific opinions of prospective jurors as to Hayes' guilt or innocence. Hayes also asserts that in imposing the voir dire restrictions, the trial judge made disparaging comments about his counsel. Hayes claims the restrictions on questioning violated his right to an impartial jury and prevented him from supporting a motion to change venue. The disparaging comments about his counsel, he contends, deprived him of a fair trial.

The purpose of the voir dire examination of prospective jurors is to enable the parties to select competent jurors who are without bias, prejudice, or partiality. See State v. Lumbrera, 252 Kan. 54, 59, 845 P.2d 609 (1992).

A trial court should not be satisfied in all cases with a one-size-fits-all approach to voir dire. Answers should not necessarily be limited to "stock questions" such as "Have you formed an opinion as to the accused's innocence or guilt?" or "Will you be able to determine guilt based only on the evidence presented?" United States v. Affleck, 776 F.2d 1451, 1455 (10th Cir.1985). Answers to such questions do, of course, go to the heart of the inquiry and are given under oath and therefore deserve a heavy presumption of correctness. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that prospective jurors with the purest of intentions may, in the heat of the moment in front of their peers, underestimate their own bias. Consequently, " '[c]onsiderable latitude should be allowed counsel in the examination of jurors, so that all who have bias or prejudice, or are otherwise disqualified, may be eliminated.' " State v. Lockett, 232 Kan. 317, 321, 654 P.2d 433 (1982) (quoting Swift v. Platte, 68 Kan. 1, 6, 72 Pac. 271, rev'd on rehearing 68 Kan. 1, 74 Pac. 635 [1903] ). Ultimately, whether ruling on challenges for cause or the scope or extent of questioning, trial courts should consider special circumstances that may be present.

Our standard of review is abuse of discretion. We have repeatedly recognized that the trial court has broad discretion in controlling voir dire in criminal cases. See, e.g., Lumbrera, 252 Kan. 54, Syl. p 4, 845 P.2d 609. K.S.A. 22-3408(3) describes the procedure for examining prospective jurors in a criminal trial. The appropriate scope and extent of voir dire may vary greatly from case to case and therefore is not governed by any fixed rules. Lockett, 232 Kan. at 322, 654 P.2d 433. Deference to trial court discretion has been called the hallmark of this court's resolution of voir dire issues in criminal cases. 232 Kan. at 323, 654 P.2d 433.

Under our general definition, judicial discretion is abused when the action taken is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable. If reasonable persons could differ as to the propriety of the action taken by the trial court, then it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion. Lumbrera, 252 Kan. 54, Syl. p 5, 845 P.2d 609.

Jury selection in this case began with a large group of prospective jurors. There was no exact count of the full assembly. However, their numbers were large enough to create a problem of insufficient seating in the courtroom at the start of the proceedings.

The clerk called 39 names, and those people, whom we refer to as panelists, were directed to sit in the jury box. One of the first 39 panelists was immediately excused for cause based on comments he had made in a written questionnaire. The clerk called a new person to replace the one excused. The remaining prospective jurors (not on the panel of 39) sat in the courtroom and observed the proceedings.

The closeness of the community was apparent from the record. Of the 39 panelists, 11 said that they knew the county attorney who was prosecuting the case, and 12 said that they knew the defense attorney. None of those people were dismissed for cause for that reason, as they all said that their relationships would not cause them to be biased in favor of or against either party. Three persons were excused for cause because they were friends of the victim's family; one was excused because his brother-in-law witnessed the crime; and another was excused who said her brother was the ambulance driver who responded to the scene.

The panelists were sworn for voir dire examination, and the trial judge made opening comments.

The State commenced its voir dire. By the end of the State's voir dire, the trial judge had excused 10 panelists for cause. Three of the excused panelists were close friends of the victim's family; four said that they had a predisposition about the case and did not believe they could put it aside; and the three others had personal reasons that would have prevented them from being attentive or impartial. Each time a panelist was excused for cause, a new panelist was selected from the supply of prospective jurors in the courtroom. The prosecutor would then bring the new panelist "up to speed" by asking all of the questions that had already been put to the panel. The State eventually passed the panel for cause.

We turn now to the specific contentions advanced by Hayes. At issue on appeal are statements and rulings of the trial court during the voir dire. Although Hayes complains of "repeated interruptions and comments," the record shows that Charles M. Tuley, Hayes' counsel, conducted voir dire on many subjects without interruption, including: (1) the presumption of innocence; (2) the fact that police can make mistakes; and (3) whether (a) race would be a factor in a juror's mind, (b) anyone had been a victim of crime, (c) anyone had served on a jury before, and (d) anyone had relatives in law enforcement.

The first interruption from the judge came when Tuley asked a panelist whether it would make a difference if Hayes did not testify. The trial judge stated, "Well, I hate to stop you there ..., jurors don't know all the law respecting that," and went on to instruct the panelists that a defendant has a right not to take the stand. The judge also informed the jurors that they would be instructed not to take such an event into consideration in determining guilt or innocence.

Tuley then asked the panelists a series of leading questions, such as "[Y]ou're expecting me, on behalf of Michael, to do something, right?" and "You expect me to call some witnesses or to put on some evidence?" At that point, the trial judge again intervened and instructed the jury that the defendant has a presumption of innocence and that the State has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court gave a mild reprimand to Tuley, suggesting that Tuley tried to "lead the prospective juror" to a conclusion contrary to law by "saying what [the juror] felt." The trial judge concluded the interruption by stating, "I don't mean to interfere with your examination...

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13 cases
  • State v. Krider
    • United States
    • Kansas Court of Appeals
    • March 6, 2009
    ...of voir dire is to allow the parties to select competent jurors who are without bias, prejudice, or partiality. State v. Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631, 908 P.2d 597 (1995). Here the venire members who indicated they might be influenced by the community or the publicity surrounding the trial were......
  • State Of Kan. v. Reyna
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • June 11, 2010
    ...cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion. State v. Ransom, 289 Kan. 373, 389, 212 P.3d 203 (2009); State v. Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631-32, 908 P.2d 597 (1995). Putting together the various segments of the trial at which the voir dire was conducted and discussed, we cannot con......
  • State v. Hayden, 88,650.
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • March 17, 2006
    ...of the action taken by the trial court, then it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion. State v. Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631-32, 908 P.2d 597 (1995). In Aikins, two defendants joined in the appeal on the issue of individual voir dire. Aikins, 261 Kan. at 364, 932 P.2d 408. o......
  • State v. Madkins
    • United States
    • Kansas Court of Appeals
    • November 20, 2009
    ... ... 219 P.3d 838 ... Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631, 908 P.2d 597 (1995). Thus, the particular circumstances surrounding a case will largely determine whether a district court erred ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Getting to the Merits Kansas Appeals: Jurisdiction, Preservation and More
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Association KBA Bar Journal No. 88-4, April 2019
    • Invalid date
    ...[160] Id. [161] Id. [162] Id. [163] Id. [164] Id. [165] State v. Hudgins, 301 Kan. 629, 635, 346 P.3d 1062 (2015) (quoting State v. Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631, 908 P.2d 597 [1995]). [166] K.S.A. 22-3410(1). [167] K.S.A. 22-3410(2)(i). [168] State v. Hill, 290 Kan. 339, 359, 228 P.3d 1027 (201......
  • Getting to the Merits Kansas Appeals: Jurisdiction, Preservation, and More
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Association KBA Bar Journal No. 88-4, April 2019
    • Invalid date
    ...[160] Id. [161] Id. [162] Id. [163] Id. [164] Id. [165] State v. Hudgins, 301 Kan. 629, 635, 346 P.3d 1062 (2015) (quoting State v. Hayes, 258 Kan. 629, 631, 908 P.2d 597 [1995]). [166] K.S.A. 22-3410(1). [167] K.S.A. 22-3410(2)(i). [168] State v. Hill, 290 Kan. 339, 359, 228 P.3d 1027 (201......
  • Appellate Decisions
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Association KBA Bar Journal No. 87-4, April 2018
    • Invalid date
    ...was convicted in 1994 of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Convictions affirmed on direct appeal, 258 Kan. 629 (1995). In 2015 Hayes filed pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence. District court summarily dismissed the motion, finding no merit o......

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