State v. Warrior

Decision Date11 May 2012
Docket NumberNo. 799,No. 101,101,799
PartiesSTATE OF KANSAS, Appellee, v. ALESIA WARRIOR, Appellant.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

The safeguards of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, reh. denied 385 U.S. 890 (1966), are triggered only when an accused is (1) in custody and (2) subject to interrogation. A custodial interrogation is defined as questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his or her freedom in any significant way. A custodial interrogation is distinguished from an investigatory interrogation, which occurs as a routine part of the fact-finding process before the investigation has reached the accusatory stage.


Factors to be considered in determining if an interrogation is investigative or custodial include: (1) the time and place of the interrogation; (2) the duration of the interrogation; (3) the number of law enforcement officers present; (4) the conduct of the officers and the person subject to the interrogation; (5) the presence or absence of actual physical restraint or its functional equivalent, such as drawn firearms or a stationed guard; (6) whether the person is being questioned as a suspect or a witness; (7) whetherthe person being questioned was escorted by officers to the interrogation location or arrived under his or her own power; and (8) the result of the interrogation, for instance, whether the person was allowed to leave, was detained further, or was arrested after the interrogation. No one factor outweighs another, nor do the factors bear equal weight. Every case must be analyzed on its own particular facts.


Two discrete inquiries are essential to an appellate court's review of a trial court's determination of whether an interrogation is custodial. Under the first inquiry, the appellate court determines the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, employing a substantial competent evidence standard of review. In determining if there is substantial competent evidence supporting the existence of the circumstances found by the trial court, an appellate court does not reweigh evidence, assess the credibility of the witnesses, or resolve conflicting evidence. The second inquiry employs a de novo standard of review to determine whether, under the totality of those circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the interrogation and disengage from the encounter.


Generally, other things being equal, a person questioned in familiar, or at least neutral, surroundings does not face the same pressures as one questioned in a police-dominated atmosphere and this factor weighs against a conclusion that an interview was custodial.


Restraint, as contemplated by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, reh. denied 385 U.S. 890 (1966), is the interference with a person's freedom which is imposed by law enforcement officers. Consequently, a law enforcement interview of an accident victim at a hospital is not a custodial interrogation unless thevictim's confinement is instigated by law enforcement or controlled for custodial purposes.


The fact a suspect is the focus of an investigation, standing alone, does not trigger the need for Miranda warnings.


Under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1963), prosecutors have a positive duty to disclose evidence favorable to the accused when the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.


Because law enforcement's knowledge of evidence is imputed to the State, a Brady violation can occur when the prosecutor withholds material evidence that is not known to the prosecutor but is known to law enforcement.


Evidence that is favorable to the accused encompasses both exculpatory and impeachment evidence. For Brady purposes, there is no distinction between these two types of evidence that are favorable to the accused; thus, impeachment evidence is considered exculpatory.


There are three components or essential elements of a Brady violation claim: (1) The evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory, or because it is impeaching; (2) that evidence must have been suppressed by the State,either willfully or inadvertently; and (3) the evidence must be material so as to establish prejudice.


Under the test for materiality governing all categories of Brady violations, evidence is material only if there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.


The sliding scale test of materiality utilized in United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 103-07, 96 S. Ct. 2392, 49 L. Ed. 2d 342 (1976), is no longer used to determine whether there has been a Brady violation, and Kansas cases utilizing the test are disapproved.


A trial court's determination as to the existence of a Brady violation is reviewed de novo with deference to the trial court's findings of fact, but the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for new trial is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. A trial court abuses its discretion when it applies an incorrect legal standard, misapplies the correct legal standard, or relies on clearly erroneous findings of fact.


Once a reviewing court has applied the reasonable probability test to determine if there is a Brady violation, there is no need for further harmless error review.


In the context of a violation of evidentiary limitations proscribed by the Kansas Code of Evidence, as opposed to a violation of a constitutional right, an appellate court applies the statutory harmless error standard of K.S.A. 60-261 and K.S.A. 60-2105 todetermine if there is a reasonable probability the error affected the outcome of the trial in light of the record as a whole. The party benefitting from the introduction of the evidence has the burden of persuasion.


A trial court errs in giving an Allen-type jury instruction that states "[a]nother trial would be a burden on both sides."


In a cumulative error analysis, an appellate court aggregates all errors and, even though those errors would individually be considered harmless, analyzes whether their cumulative effect is such that collectively they cannot be determined to be harmless. In other words, was the defendant's right to a fair trial violated because the combined errors affected the outcome of the trial?

Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; JOHN J. MCNALLY, judge. Opinion filed May 11, 2012. Affirmed.

Korey A. Kaul, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Sheryl L. Lidtke, deputy district attorney, argued the cause, and Jerome A. Gorman, district attorney, and Steve Six, attorney general, were with her on the brief for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by LUCKERT, J.: Alesia Warrior (Warrior) was convicted by a jury of the premeditated first-degree murder of her husband, in violation of K.S.A. 21-3401(a), and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, in violation of K.S.A. 21-3302 and K.S.A. 21-3401. Warrior received a controlling hard 50 life sentence. In this direct appeal, she argues: (1) statements she made to law enforcement officers while she was hospitalized were the result of a custodial interrogation and should have been suppressed because she had not been read her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, reh. denied 385 U.S. 890 (1966); (2) the trial court abused its discretion in denying Warrior's motion for new trial in which she alleged the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence that pertained to a prior juvenile adjudication of a key prosecution witness; (3) the trial court erred in allowing the State to present hearsay testimony regarding statements made by the victim, Warrior's husband, indicating his belief that his marriage was in trouble; (4) the trial court erred in giving a deadlocked jury instruction prior to deliberations; (5) Kansas' hard 50 sentencing scheme under K.S.A. 21-4635 is unconstitutional; and (6) cumulative error requires reversal of Warrior's convictions and remand for a new trial.

We reject each of these contentions and affirm Warrior's convictions and sentence.


The State's theory was that Warrior, Darell Rodgers, and Jamar Moore conspired to murder Warrior's husband, Jeremy Warrior (Jeremy). As evidence of motive, the State presented testimony regarding marital discord between Warrior and Jeremy and established that Warrior and Rodgers were having an extramarital affair. Financial gain was an additional motive; after Jeremy's death, Warrior received benefit payments in excess of $335,000 from life insurance policies she took out a few months before the murder.

The murder occurred in the predawn hours of April 23, 2005, as Warrior drove Jeremy to work. Typically, Jeremy would drive himself to work, but Warrior drove him that day. The reason for the change of routine, according to Warrior, was that Jeremy's car needed a new headlight, and she planned to take his car to a Firestone store to have the light replaced. The State cast doubt on this explanation through the testimony of the manager of the Firestone store. The manager told the jury that his store employees had broken the car's headlight when it had been in for repairs before Jeremy's death. The store had ordered a part and was planning to replace the headlight at no charge, but the...

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