Decision: State v. Richmond

July 24th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its decision in State v. Richmond (No. 100,074) a criminal appeal. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Lawton Nuss, the Court rejected Albert Richmond’s various claims to have his conviction for first-degree murder and 50 year (without parole) sentence vacated. Note: District Judge David King served on the Court for this case following the retirement of former Chief Justice Kay McFarland.

Albert Richmond, a drug dealer in Pittsburg, shot and killed Tyrone Owens (also a drug dealer in Pittsburg) in October 2006. The State believed that Richmond did so to discourage snitching, following an incident where a house he was in was raided for drugs. Richmond was accompanied by various henchmen who assisted in various parts of the crime, all of whom cut plea deals with the State. A jury convicted Richmond and he was sentenced to a life sentence without the possibility of parole for fifty years.

Richmond made several claims in his appeal:

That the Court erred by allowing a statement by Richmond to a police officer from several years before that in his own words he “robbed and killed people” into evidence. Rejected. The Court held that this statement (which stemmed from a 1995 Kansas City murder investigation) spoke to Richmond’s mental state and self-image and consequently could be admitted. Prosecutors had been warned to approach this very carefully, since Richmond’s prior convictions from that case were inadmissible.

That the Court erred by ruling that the State could introduce evidence about the 1995 convictions if Richmond introduced his own testimony which related to it. [Richmond chose not to testify]. Rejected. Richmond argued that by ruling this way he was prevented from introducing his own theory of defense but the Court held that having successfully blocked the 1995 matter from being referred to, Richmond could not have referred to those events without the State being able to fill in its side of the story.

That the Court erred by allowing into evidence proof of Richmond’s heavy involvement in drug culture, including prior convictions for drug related crimes. Rejected. The Court held that the evidence was probative and not unduly prejudicial since it showed that Richmond would have been aware of how much cash a dealer like his victim was likely to carry.

That the Prosecutor committed misconduct. Rejected. Richmond raised many claims of prosecutorial misconduct, all but one of which were rejected out of hand. The one which was not concerned the prosecutor repeatedly asking leading questions of a witness, after objections and being warned by the Judge about each instance. The Court held that this could have been reviewed for prosecutorial misconduct, but did not do so because it held that even if it found misconduct the error was harmless since there was little if any likelihood of these incidents altering the result of the trial.

That Cumulative Errors denied him a fair trial. Rejected, since a sole harmless error cannot lead to cumulative error.

Apprendi. Rejected. Richmond made a doomed, pro-forma Apprendi challenge [presumably to preserve the issue for a futile Federal review] which the Court rejected based on its past jurisprudence, upholding the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines.

Richmond therefore remains in prison.

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