Kansas Court to decide if man’s possession convictions to be overturned

FILE - Kansas Supreme Court
FILE - Kansas Supreme Court(MGN)
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:33 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Supreme Court will decide if the convictions of possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine will be overturned following possible errors from the Court of Appeals.

The Kansas Supreme Court says that during its Dec. 12 - 14 docket, it will hear an appeal in the case of State of Kansas v. Cory Wayne Bentley, which stems from Sedgwick Co. It said this is a direct appeal from Bentley following his convictions for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, driving while suspended, and failure to maintain a single lane while driving.

Court records indicate that Bentley was sentenced to 155 months - 12.9 years - in prison with a consecutive 6-month jail sentence.

At trial, the Court indicated that both parties noted that Bentley had been previously convicted of a felony that prohibited him from possessing a weapon. Parties further stipulated that he did not have a firearm before or during the crime. It was signed by Bentley, his attorney and the prosecutor and was admitted as evidence at trial.

On appeal, the court records note that a Court of Appeals panel agreed with Bentley’s argument that the district court made a mistake when it accepted the stipulation without getting a valid jury trial waiver on the record which is precedent. In a concurring opinion, Judge Garner recognized the precedent as binding but urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its holding.

“It strains reason to hold that a stipulation to one element amounts to a guilty plea requiring a jury trial waiver,” Garner wrote.

The Court said that issues to be on review include whether the Court of Appeals:

  • Made a mistake in finding the district court erred with its acceptance of the stipulation without a valid jury trial waiver,
  • Made a mistake when it held Bentley’s state,
  • Made a mistake with the conclusion that a defense attorney can use a guilt-based defense unless the client “vociferously insisted he did not engage in charged acts and adamantly objected to any admission of guilt,”
  • Made a mistake when it held that state law decides the severity level of distribution-related offenses based on the total amount possessed rather than the amount possessed with intent to distribute,
  • Made a decision contrary to precedent that a pattern presumption instruction in relation to amounts possessed is legally inappropriate,
    • The instruction given to the jury that it could infer intent to distribute from possession of an arbitrary amount of a controlled substance is legally inappropriate,
    • The amount thresholds in state law are arbitrary and violate the Due Process Clause
  • Made a mistake when it found that evidence Bentley knew he did not have his driver’s license was sufficient to show he knew his license was suspended.