January 30th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its opinion in State v. Gant (No. 98,026). In a unanimous decision, authored by Justice Rosen, the Court rejected Christopher Gant’s appeal against his conviction for felony murder. Gant had argued that a confession he made without a lawyer present should have been suppressed at trial. Note: Former Chief Justice McFarland was a member of the Court at the time this case was argued, but did not take part in the decision. Her place was taken by Judge Christel Marquardt of the Court of Appeals.
On March 20th 2006, Gant had driven three armed men to a pair of addresses. At one of these addresses the three men attempted to rob one Donta McDonald and shot him dead when he did not comply. Gant was convicted of Felony Murder for driving the killers to McDonald’s house along with attempted aggravated robbery. [The three other men were also charged with the murder of someone at the other address Gant drove them to, though Gant was not as he had left by this time].
When Gant had been arrested he was with two women. As he was arrested he shouted some things to them – including that he loved them and asking them to get him a lawyer. On arrival at the police station the interviewing officer was informed he had requested this. Gant was read his Miranda rights and signed a card to indicate that he would nonetheless be interviewed without a lawyer present. At no point did he ask the police for a lawyer (there was some quibbling over this but those are the facts of the case as proven to the District Court). Gant confessed to his role in the killing of McDonald. At trial he sought to have his confession withheld from the jury on the grounds it was made without a lawyer present. The District Court rejected this on the grounds that he had knowingly waived his Miranda rights. At any point in proceedings had he asked the police for a lawyer he would have received one.
The Court also rejected an argument by Gant that his trial was prejudiced by the presence of one of the detectives (and witnesses) on the end of the prosecutors table and an argument that his enhanced sentence for the attempted aggravated robbery conviction fell foul of the United States Supreme Court’s Apprendi line of cases. The Court rehearsed the definition of felony murder for Gant in denying his pro-se argument that he was wrongly convicted since he had not shot McDonald and had not been attempting to rob him (since he was remaining in the car he was driving). Finally, the Court also rejected Gant’s argument that since one of his accomplices had received a plea deal, his own prosecution was discriminatory. This was a long-shot argument since his associate accepted the plea deal after Gant’s conviction!
Gant’s life sentence remains intact at the conclusion of the case.