State v. Vaughn

Decision Date30 January 2009
Docket NumberNo. 98,840.,98,840.
Citation200 P.3d 446
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellant, v. Merle Steve VAUGHN, Appellee.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Jared S. Maag, deputy solicitor general, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Edward C. Gillette, of Mission, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

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

The Wyandotte County District Court dismissed misdemeanor charges against Merle Steve Vaughn, finding that the defendant's speedy trial right under K.S.A. 22-3402(2) had been violated. The State appealed pursuant to K.S.A. 22-3602(b)(1), and the case was transferred to this court on its own motion. We reverse and remand for a hearing and factual determination on the State's claim that defendant acquiesced to a continuance, thereby tolling the speedy trial period.


In July 2006, Vaughn was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct in violation of K.S.A.2006 Supp. 21-3302 and two counts of official misconduct in violation of K.S.A.2006 Supp. 21-3902(a)(5), all misdemeanor charges. He was arraigned on these charges on August 15, 2006, and was released on bond. The defendant's case was set for trial on October 16, 2006.

On October 16, 2006, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss and a motion to suppress certain evidence. The defendant and the State agreed to continue the October 16 trial date and the hearing on the defendant's motions until December 5, 2006.

As a result of numerous recusals by Wyandotte County district judges, Senior Judge William F. Lyle, Jr., retired, was assigned to the defendant's case on November 1, 2006. Shortly before the December 5 hearing, Judge Lyle informed the parties that he would be unable to hear the case at the current time due to a potential conflict of interest with defense counsel. Judge Lyle rescheduled the case for February 7, 2007, to give the court time to resolve the conflict issue.

On February 2, 2007, the State received a letter from Vaughn's defense counsel informing the State that the February 7 hearing had been continued until March 29, 2007, due to the judge's illness. Due to continued health problems, Judge Lyle was again unable to hear Vaughn's case on March 29, 2007, and the matter was rescheduled for May 11, 2007.

On May 11, the court heard argument on Vaughn's previously-filed motions, as well as defense counsel's oral motion to dismiss on the basis of the denial of a speedy trial. The State filed a written response to Vaughn's speedy trial motion, arguing that all of the continuances in this case had been either at the defendant's request or on the court's own motion—not at the request of the State.

On June 4, 2007, the district court issued a memorandum opinion dismissing the case for violation of the defendant's speedy trial rights. The court explained that its "primary concern" was whether "the delay [was] caused by the fault of the defendant." The court continued:

"The court, after much deliberation on the matter, must answer that question no! The defendant caused delay by the filing of his motions that ran from 10/16/06 to a setting on 12/5/06 for a total of 49 days. It is not sufficient, in my opinion, to say that defendant acquiesced in the following continuances of the case to stay the tolling of the 180 day speedy trial requirement. The remaining delays were not due to the fault of the defendant and the case must be dismissed against him."

Standard of Review

This court exercises unlimited review over a district court's legal rulings regarding violations of a defendant's statutory right to a speedy trial. State v. White, 275 Kan. 580, 598, 67 P.3d 138 (2003). The primary issue in such appeals—the computation of days to be assessed against the so-called speedy trial clock—requires some level of statutory interpretation and thus is reviewed de novo. 275 Kan. at 600, 67 P.3d 138. Nevertheless, there are times, as in the case we now consider, where the assessment of time under our speedy trial statute turns on a factual determination by the district court.

The outcome of this case turns on whether Vaughn or his defense counsel acquiesced in the delays of bringing this case to trial, thus tolling the statutory speedy trial requirement. The question of whether the defendant acquiesced in the continuances here is a factual determination. See State v. Adams, 283 Kan. 365, 369-70, 153 P.3d 512 (2007). We review the factual determinations of the district court to determine whether the facts as found by the district court are supported by substantial competent evidence. Owen Lumber Co. v. Chartrand, 283 Kan. 911, 915-16, 157 P.3d 1109 (2007). We do not re-weigh evidence or reassess credibility. In re Estate of Hjersted, 285 Kan. 559, 571, 175 P.3d 810 (2008). We then determine de novo whether those facts as a matter of law support the legal conclusion of the district court. Owen Lumber Co., 283 Kan. at 915, 157 P.3d 1109. When the record on review does not support a presumption that the district court found all the facts necessary to support the judgment, this court will remand the case for additional findings and conclusions. In re Estate of Cline, 258 Kan. 196, 206, 898 P.2d 643 (1995).

K.S.A. 22-3402 and the Statutory Right to a Speedy Trial

A total of 269 days passed between the date of the defendant's arraignment on August 15, 2006, and the hearing before the district court on May 11, 2007. Because the defendant was released on bond on the date of his arraignment, the State had 180 days to bring the defendant to trial to avoid a statutory speedy trial violation. K.S.A. 22-3402(2); City of Derby v. Lackey, 243 Kan. 744, 745, 763 P.2d 614 (1988) (the calculation of time for a speedy trial begins on the date of arraignment). K.S.A. 22-3402(2) provides:

"If any person charged with a crime and held to answer on an appearance bond shall not be brought to trial within 180 days after arraignment on the charge, such person shall be entitled to be discharged from further liability to be tried for the crime charged, unless the delay shall happen as a result of the application or fault of the defendant."

Only the State is authorized to bring a criminal prosecution to trial, so it is the State's obligation to ensure that a defendant is provided a speedy trial within the statutory limits. State v. Prewett, 246 Kan. 39, 42, 785 P.2d 956 (1990). A defendant is not required to take any affirmative action to see that his or her right to a speedy trial is observed. State v. Williams, 187 Kan. 629, 635, 360 P.2d 11 (1961).

Nevertheless, delays that result from the request of a defendant toll the statutory speedy trial period. See K.S.A. 22-3402(2); State v. Warren, 224 Kan. 454, 456, 580 P.2d 1336 (1978). A defendant waives his or her right to a speedy trial under the statute if he or she requests a continuance or files a motion that delays the trial beyond the statutory deadline. See City of Dodge City v. Downing, 257 Kan. 561, 563, 894 P.2d 206 (1995) (speedy trial clock tolled for time needed to decide defendant's motion to suppress evidence); State v. Bean, 236 Kan. 389, Syl. ¶ 2, 691 P.2d 30 (1984) (speedy trial clock tolled when defendant requests a continuance of the trial date). Actions of defense counsel are attributable to the defendant in computing speedy trial violations unless the defendant timely voices his or her disagreement with those actions. See State v. Hines, 269 Kan. 698, 703-04, 7 P.3d 1237 (2000); State v. Brown, 249 Kan. 698, Syl. ¶ 4, 823 P.2d 190 (1991).

This court has further explained that a defendant's waiver of the right to a speedy trial extends not only to a defendant's request for a continuance but also is effected by a defendant's "acquiescing in the grant of a continuance." State v. Brown, 283 Kan. 658, 662, 157 P.3d 624 (2007); see also State v. Southard, 261 Kan. 744, 748, 933 P.2d 730 (1997) ("A defendant, by his or her conduct, may waive the statutory right to a speedy trial. Such conduct includes requesting or even acquiescing in the grant of a continuance."). While the term "acquiescence" does not appear in Kansas' speedy trial statute, our previous decisions have indicated that when a defendant acquiesces to a continuance, that defendant waives his or her statutory rights under K.S.A. 22-3402. See State v. Adams, 283 Kan. 365, 369, 153 P.3d 512 (2007).

Black's Law Dictionary 25 (8th ed.2004), defines "acquiescence" as "[a] person's tacit or passive acceptance; implied consent to an act." In Kansas, however, we have never held that passive acceptance of a continuance waives a defendant's speedy trial rights. See Adams, 283 Kan. at 370, 153 P.3d 512. Such a notion is inconsistent with our decisions holding that a defendant is not required to take any affirmative action to see that his or her right to a speedy trial is observed. See Williams, 187 Kan. at 635, 360 P.2d 11. As the Kansas Court of Appeals explained in State v. Arrocha, 30 Kan. App.2d 120, 127, 39 P.3d 101, rev. denied 273 Kan. 1037 (2002): "If the defense stands silent, neither advocating nor acquiescing in delay, ... the State must beware. In such circumstances, prosecutors and the district courts are well advised to put consideration of the applicable time limit in the speedy trial statute on the record."

For acquiescence to result in a waiver of speedy trial rights, the State must demonstrate more than mere passive acceptance and must produce some evidence of agreement to the delay by the defendant or defense counsel. The record must support a conclusion that the defendant expressly or impliedly agreed to the delay. The question of whether Vaughn acquiesced in the delays that prevented this case from being brought to trial within 180 days is the dispositive issue in the case before us.

Application and Analysis

The district court concluded in its journal entry dismissing the charges against Vaughn that it was "not sufficient, in [the court's] opinion, to say...

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