WHEN WILL A COURT DISMISS A CASE ON A MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL?
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. Zamora, 247 Kan. 684 (1990).
This case answers the following question:
When will a court dismiss a case on a motion for acquittal?
The issue in this case includes whether the trial court erred in denying a motion for acquittal of the charge of aggravated kidnapping at the close of the State’s evidence. Id. at 694. When ruling on a motion for judgement of acquittal, “if a trial court concludes from the evidence that a reasonable mind might fairly decide a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the motion must be denied and the case must go to the jury.” Id. at 694. Further, on appeal, the reviewing court must determine whether a rational factfinder could have found the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. The crime of aggravated kidnapping under K.S.A. 21-3421 is defined as “kidnapping, as defined in section 21-3420, when bodily harm is inflicted upon the person kidnapped.” Id. The relevant portion of K.S.A. 21-3420 defines kidnapping as: “[T]he taking or confining of any person, accomplished by force, threat, or deception, with the intent to hold such person: … [t]o inflict bodily injury or to terrorize the victim or another.” Id. at 694-5. The Court previously held that rape constitutes sufficient bodily harm to support a conviction of aggravated kidnapping. Id. at 695.
In the present case, the defendant argued that the evidence establishes a confinement incidental to the rapes and that the confinement was inherent in the nature of a repeated sexual assault. Id. The defendant also noted that the Court previously stated that the “ordinary rape require[s] as a necessary incident some ‘confinement’ of the victim” and is “nevertheless not [a] kidnapping solely for that reason.” The defendant first noted the case in State v. Cabral, 228 Kan. 741 (1980), where the defendant and the victim were driving around and the defendant subsequently put the car in park, locked the vehicle, and proceeded to rape the victim. Id. The Court held in Cabral, that the confinement was inherent in the nature of the rape and incidental to the commission of the rape. 228 Kan. at 745. The defendant then noted the case of State v. Howard, 243 Kan. 699, where the defendant confined the rape victim for an hour and a half. Id. In that case, the Court upheld the conviction for aggravated kidnapping because the defendants actions were not incidental to the sex crimes and were not inherent in the nature of the sex crimes. 243 Kan. at 702. This Court held that the facts of the case at bar were inconsistent with both of the previous cases provided. 247 Kan. at 696. Unlike Cabral, this was not an ordinary rape in the sense that the victim’s evidence established that the defendant tied her up, gagged her, raped her 3 times, then further confined her by lying in front of the only door to prevent her escape. Id. Further, the defendant confined her from approximately 1:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. Id. The Court then found that the confinement was different than the confinement in Howard, because the confinement in the present case was longer and not of a kind inherent in the nature of rape and incidental to the commission of rape. Id. This Court reasoned that by tying up the victim, it made it substantially easier to rape her and prevent her from leaving, which substantially lessened the risk of detection. Id. Thus, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion for acquittal because a rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime of aggravated kidnapping. Id.