State v. Miller, No. 109716.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kansas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation350 P.3d 1137 (Table)
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellee, v. Matthew MILLER, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 109716.
Decision Date05 June 2015

350 P.3d 1137 (Table)

STATE of Kansas, Appellee
Matthew MILLER, Appellant.

No. 109716.

Court of Appeals of Kansas.

June 5, 2015.

Korey A. Kaul and Corrine E. Johnson, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.

Amy E. Norton, assistant county attorney, Ellen Mitchell, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.




Defendant Matthew Miller appeals his convictions for physically abusing the woman with whom he lived and for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia found in the home they shared. He asserts a wide array of mistakes. Although Miller did not receive a perfect jury trial in the Saline County District Court, the errors considered individually and collectively did not deprive him of a fair trial. We, therefore, affirm Miller's convictions and sentence. See State v. Cruz, 297 Kan. 1048, 1075, 307 P.3d 199 (2013) (“As we have recognized for decades, ‘[a] defendant is entitled to a fair trial but not a perfect one ....‘ “ (quoting State v. Bly, 215 Kan. 168, 178, 523 P.2d 397 [1974] ).

Factual and Procedural Background

Miller moved in with Cynthia Rowden in spring 2010, and their relationship turned abusive almost immediately. In late May, Miller punched Rowden, blackening her eyes, because she said she had been flirting with a coworker. Two months later, Rowden went to an optometrist in Salina complaining of blurred vision in her left eye. Rowden told the doctor she had been slapped and felt a “pop” in her eye. She was equivocal about who had slapped her. At trial, Rowden testified that Miller struck her. The optometrist detected a detached retina, and Rowden went to see Dr. Paul Weishaar, a Wichita ophthalmologist specializing in diagnosing and treating retinal injuries. Dr. Weishaar surgically repaired the detached retina in Rowden's left eye.

Rowden testified that shortly after the surgery, Miller again assaulted her when he again became upset about her behavior with her coworker. According to Rowden, Miller ordered her to the basement of her home, handcuffed her to a pole, and threatened to bum her with cigarette lighters until she told him what was going on. The confrontation ended when someone came to the front door. Miller unlocked the handcuffs and took Rowden to a bedroom upstairs before he answered the door.

On August 8, Rowden returned to her optometrist with decreased vision in her right eye. She again said she had been struck but offered no details. Based on the repeated injuries and visible bruising to Rowden at the later visit, the optometrist called the police to report possible abuse. When an officer arrived, Rowden explained that she had been at a bar where a casual acquaintance she knew as Mike hit her. Rowden returned to Dr. Weishaar for treatment. Dr. Weishaar determined the retina in Rowden's right eye was detached and surgically repaired it.

According to Rowden's testimony, Miller beat her daily during most of the month of August using his fists and household objects. During the third week, they drove to a secluded area near a golf course. Miller told Rowden he was looking for a place to bury her. He then forced her out of the car and pummeled her. As the beating went on, Miller threatened to tie up Rowden and leave her there. The assault ended when Miller got tired. They returned to the car and drove back to Rowden's house.

Early the next morning, Miller brandished a machete as Rowden lay in bed. He threatened to kill both her and her mother. Miller then forced Rowden to drive to her coworker's house even though she could barely see. On the way, Rowden jumped a curb and ran into a stop sign. Miller bolted from the car. Rowden was able to navigate the car to the parking lot of a nearby supermarket. Employees and patrons of the store discovered her badly beaten and slumped over in the car. Emergency medical responders took Rowden to an area hospital where she was treated and released. While at the hospital, Rowden told police and medical personnel that Mike from the bar had hurt her. She specifically denied Miller had anything to do with her injuries.

From the hospital, Rowden went to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She called Miller to tell him she had no romantic interest in her coworker and to make sure he was okay. Rowden then called her mother and explained that Miller had been abusing her. That appears to have been the first time Rowden acknowledged Miller's abuse to anyone.

In the meantime, Salina police officers contacted Miller at Rowden's home. The officers informed Miller that Rowden had been beaten and was at a hospital for treatment. Miller denied knowing anything about what had happened to Rowden. Miller told the officers he had been angry with Rowden but did not assault her. Miller discussed Rowden's recent eye surgeries with the officers and mentioned he was planning to take Rowden back to Wichita for an additional surgery. The officers noted Miller had fresh scratches on his face and arms.

Rowden's mother and sister drove from Texas to Salina to take Rowden for a second surgery on her left eye to correct what Dr. Weishaar described as a “recurrent detachment” of the retina. Following the surgery, Rowden gave Wichita police officers a brief statement identifying Miller as her abuser. The officers forwarded that information to the Salina police department.

Armed with that information, Salina police officers arrested Miller at about 5 p.m. on August 26. Miller was kept in a holding cell for roughly 6 hours while the police obtained a search warrant for Rowden's house and then scoured the premises. Detective Jamie Grover and another investigator then questioned Miller for about 2 hours. Miller continued to deny that he had hurt Rowden. When the investigators indicated they were concluding the interrogation, Miller said he would give them more information if he could smoke a cigarette. The investigators agreed and allowed Miller a smoke break. Miller then described in some detail various incidents during which he had struck and injured Rowden.

The Salina police found significant amounts of blood in several rooms of Rowden's house. Later DNA testing showed the blood to be Rowden's. The officers also confiscated various household objects, items commonly used to ingest illegal drugs, and a plastic bag containing methamphetamine residue.

After her third eye surgery, Rowden went to Texas to stay with family members. While there, she gave a more detailed statement to officers with the Plano police department about Miller's abuse of her.

While in custody, Miller requested to speak with Det. Grover a second time. During their meeting, Miller asked Det. Grover to get additional items from Rowden's house that he suggested would exculpate him. Det. Grover obtained a second search warrant and participated in another search of the house on September 2. The officers seized clothing, locks, chains, a set of handcuffs, a machete, and devices for storing electronic data.

The district attorney charged Miller with two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated battery, aggravated assault, two counts of criminal threat, domestic battery, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Miller filed motions to suppress evidence the police took from Rowden's house and statements he made to Det. Grover and the other investigator the day he was arrested. The district court heard and denied the motions in late April 2012, several days before the jury trial began. Miller did not testify during the 10–day trial. After deliberating for 2 days, the jury found Miller not guilty of two of the three kidnapping charges and the aggravated assault charge. The jury could not reach a verdict on the other kidnapping charge. The jury convicted Miller on the remaining charges, although finding one of the aggravated battery counts to be of a lower severity level. After denying Miller's posttrial motions, the district court imposed a combination of concurrent and consecutive sentences, yielding a controlling prison term of 141 months. Miller has appealed.

Legal Analysis

We take up the points on appeal largely as Miller has presented them, adding facts and procedural history as necessary. Ultimately, we find no grounds warranting legal relief for Miller.

Motions to Suppress

Miller contends the search warrants were too generic in describing some of the objects to be seized, rendering them impermissible general warrants violating the prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Stanford v. Texas, 379 U.S. 476, 485–86, 85 S.Ct. 506, 13 L.Ed.2d 431 (1965) ; Cassady v. Goering, 567 F.3d 628, 635 (10th Cir.2009). The district court denied Miller's motion to suppress evidence, a ruling he has appealed.

Although Miller's arguments are abstractly intriguing, he fails to demonstrate any trial error affecting his convictions. Even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation and an erroneous ruling in the district court on a motion to suppress, the appropriate remedy for the constitutional violation would be the exclusion of any impermissibly seized evidence in the prosecution of the accused. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897,...

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