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. Wakefield, 977 P.2d 941 (Kan. 1999).
This case addresses the following issue:
Does it always help your case if there is unnecessary delay before they bring you in front of a judge?
This case explored the issue of whether it always helps a defendant’s case if there was unnecessary delay before bringing them in front of a judge. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that it does not always help a defendant if there was unnecessary delay because no penalties are put in place in the event that there was unnecessary delay in taking a person under arrest before the nearest available judge. Id. at 948.
On September 13, 1996, two police officers were dispatched to a house where the 911 caller had reported two dead bodies. Id. at 945. Upon arriving at the house, the officers noted that the back door was open, the kitchen had been ransacked, and the lights did not work. Id. When the officers called out to identify themselves, two young children came down the stairs and informed the officers that both their parents were in the master bedroom and had been shot and killed. Id. The officers secured the crime scene and found a sawed-off rifle on the kitchen counter. Id. Further investigation revealed that numerous items had been taken from the household including televisions, a suitcase, stereo boom box, carrying case, VCR, vacuum sweeper, stereo, and several guns. Id.
The day after the murders, police officers made a routine traffic stop of a car and noticed that the passenger was acting suspiciously. Id. at 945-46. After getting permission to search the car, the officers found one of the stolen guns under the seat of the passenger’s seat. Id. Eventually, the passenger confessed to being a participant in the burglary. Id. The police officers received a warrant to search the passenger’s house and found the defendant hiding in the attic of the house. Id. The house was full with all of the stolen items. Id. After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of one count of felony theft, two counts of premeditated murder, two counts of felony murder, and two counts of first-degree murder. Id.
The defendant argued that he was taken for first appearance with unnecessary delay. Id. at 948. In order to address this argument, the court referenced a Kansas statute which provided that when an arrest was made in the county where the crime charged was alleged to have been committed, the person arrested should be taken without unnecessary delay before the nearest judge and a complaint shall be promptly filed. Id. However, the statute provided no penalties in the event there was unnecessary delay in taking a person under arrest before the nearest available judge. Id.
In sum, it does not always help a defendant’s case if there was unnecessary delay before bringing him or her in front a judge. Id. This is because the Kansas statute that deals with this issue does not provide any type of penalty in the event that there was an unnecessary delay in bringing the defendant in front of the judge. Id.