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Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

State v. Wood, 638 P.2d 908 (Kan. 1982).

This case answers the following question:

What can an investigator do to gather information to prepare a Pre-Sentence Investigation report?

This case discusses whether the due process rights of the defendant were violated as a result of ex parte comments made by the prosecutor to the presentence investigator who collected information for the presentence report submitted to the sentencing judge. In preparation of a presentence investigation report, a court services officer must be permitted a wide latitude in collecting information about the defendant and about his criminal activities.

The defendant, Wood, shot his wife while she was sitting on a couch in the couple’s home. After shooting his wife, the defendant then turned the gun on himself and shot himself. The state presented evidence that the defendant intentionally killed his wife and had in fact beat and threatened her on previous occasions. In addition, it was shown through evidence that Wood had issues controlling his temper. On the other hand, the defendant claimed that he accidentally shot his wife, and that after doing so, he attempted to shoot himself in his grief. Wood appealed from a conviction of murder in the second degree after trial on a charge of first degree murder. Defendant claims that his due process rights were violated as a result of ex parte comments made by the prosecutor to the presentence investigator.

At trial there were two witnesses that testified to the nature of the relationship between the Wood and his wife. Prior to trial, Wood had filed a motion in limine to determine if these testimonies were admissible under Kansas state law. At the hearing for the motion, an investigating officer testified about the substance of the two witnesses. The trial court denied the motion and held that the witness testimonies would be admissible. The witness appealed this arguing that it was an error to allow this testimony without requiring the witnesses to present the evidence in person. In the present case, the Supreme Court of Kansas disagrees and affirms the trial court’s decision. The court reasoned that there is not such requirement that the witnesses have to testify in person at motion in limine hearings.

In preparation of a presentence investigation report, a court services officer must be permitted a wide latitude in collecting information about the defendant and about his criminal activities. While collecting this information, a court services officer often has to contact parties with relevant information at moments when the defendant or his counsel are not present. The court stated that there was nothing wrong with this. It is important that the defense and his counsel are given the same opportunity to read any information in the presentence report and to rebut information which the defense and his counsel do not believe is correct. The court determined that this important step was met in this case. Here, the defendant and his counsel had the opportunity at the time of sentence and later at the hearing on the motion for rehearing to view the full report and present any other evidence or dispute the information as incorrect.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed. None of the appeals by the defendant would warrant a reversal, therefore there was no error made by the district court.

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