In Kansas, when the State charges a person with a felony, that person has a right to a preliminary hearing on the charges. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine:
(1) whether a crime has been committed, and
(2) whether there is probable cause to believe the accused committed the crime.
The State is not required, and often does not, present all of its evidence at a preliminary hearing. Instead, the State is only required to prove that “a felony has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed by the defendant.”
The burden of proof is very low at a preliminary hearing. In order to prove probable cause at preliminary hearing, there must be evidence sufficient to cause a person of ordinary prudence and caution to conscientiously entertain a reasonable belief of the accused's guilt, and even if the evidence is weak, if some evidence tends to disclose the charged offense was committed by the defendant, the case should go to a jury. Further, the law provides that, a trial court must draw inferences favorable to prosecution from evidence presented at preliminary hearing. Although the preliminary hearing is not to be considered a mini-trial, a good defense attorney knows how to effectively use a preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing can help an attorney in many different aspects of a case. First, and foremost, a preliminary hearing can lock witnesses into testimony that may change at trial. A good attorney knows how to cross-examine a witness, and preliminary hearing is where it begins. Additionally, a good attorney can gain valuable information at a preliminary hearing that can help to get important evidence suppressed in a case. Finally, a preliminary hearing can be used to gain insight into a case that may not have been readily apparent in the police reports.
The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a white-collar crime case over a jury's 2011 conviction of Florida fisherman John Yates. The government charged Mr. Yates under the "anti-shredding" provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law. The provision penalizes the destruction or concealment of "a tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence" a government investigation. Most of us are familiar with this law as being intended to prevent fraud of the sort committed by companies such as Enron Corp and WorldCom Inc.
What damning evidence did Mr. Yates attempt to destroy or conceal, you ask? Fish. Yes, that’s right, fish. According to prosecutors in Florida, Mr. Yates threw undersized fish overboard after federal and state officials measured the fish on his boat.
At his trial, a crewmember testified that Yates had told crew members to throw the undersized fish overboard and replace them with others. Based on the undisputed evidence that Yates tossed the fish overboard, he was convicted under the “anti-shredding” provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Yates appealed, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, finding in part that a fish fit within the definition of a "tangible object." Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Who said white-collar-crimes aren’t fun? The case is United States v. Yates, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-7451.
The following case summaries are provided by Stacey L. Schlimmer. For complete case opinions visit kscourts.org. All cases are individual and in no way do these cases reflect every case.
The Court rejected the argument that K.S.A. 60-455 prohibited the admission of evidence of other crimes that were committed at the same time as the crimes for which the defendant was on trial. The Court held that, although State v. Gunby, 282 Kan. 39, 144 P.3d 647 (2006) eliminated res gestae as an independent basis for the admission of evidence, it did not eliminate the admission of evidence of events surrounding a commission of the crime under the applicable rules of evidence.