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State v. Irons

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant was charged with aggravated escape from custody when he signed out to go to work but failed to return the next morning to the work-release facility where he was sent. The trial court granted the State’s motion to exclude Defendant’s testimony supporting a defense of compulsion. Defendant was convicted. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A five-part test must be satisfied before a defendant charged with escape is permitted to present a compulsion defense.

    Facts.

    Brandon Irons (Defendant) was sent to the Wichita Community Residential Center (CRC), a work-release facility for inmates. One day, Defendant signed out to go to work but failed to return the next morning. Defendant was eventually charged with aggravated escape from custody. Prior to trial, the State made a motion requesting that the court exclude any evidence pertaining to Defendant’s motives for escaping. During the motion hearing, Defendant testified that the other inmates had become angry about an interview he had given about the CRC. After Defendant signed out to go to work, he was chased by two inmates and ran into a store for safety. The inmates told Defendant that they were going to kill him when he returned. While at work, Defendant called the CRC and spoke to Ryan, the assistant administrator, who agreed to call Defendant later that evening but never did. Defendant called again a number of times but could not reach Ryan. Instead of returning to the CRC, Defendant went to Texas and stayed there until he was arrested five months later. Defendant argued that his testimony supported a defense of compulsion under Kansas law, which provided that a person was not guilty of a crime based on conduct performed under the compulsion or threat of imminent death or great bodily harm. The trial court granted the State’s motion and excluded Defendant’s testimony, concluding that the threats were not sufficiently imminent to allow for a compulsion defense. Defendant was convicted of aggravated escape. Defendant appealed the conviction.

    Issue.

    Whether a five-part test must be satisfied before a defendant charged with escape is permitted to present a compulsion defense.

    Held.

    Yes. Defendant’s conviction is affirmed. A five-part test must be satisfied before a defendant charged with escape is permitted to present a compulsion defense.

    Dissent.

    (Davis, J.): The judgment should be reversed, because Defendant satisfied all five elements of the Pinchon test. The majority did not set a proper time limit on the last requirement, which Defendant met when he first reported the issue from his place of employment.

    Discussion.

    State v. Pinchon, 15 Kan. App. 2d 527 (1991), set forth the five requirements: (1) the prisoner faced an imminent threat of death or serious harm, (2) there was no time to complain to authorities or a complaint would have been futile, (3) there was no time to resort to the courts, (4) there was no evidence of violence used in the escape, and (5) the prisoner immediately reported to authorities after reaching a position of safety. In this case, the threats were sufficiently specific to satisfy the imminence requirement. Defendant was told that he would be killed when he returned from work, which was a specific time in the near future. Therefore, the trial court erred by refusing the testimony based on this reason. However, the four other Pinchon requirements must also be met. There is evidence that Defendant’s complaints to authorities proved futile, as Defendant tried repeatedly to contact Ryan but was unsuccessful. There was no real opportunity to contact the courts between the time Defendant left for work and the time he was supposed to return, and Defendant did not use force in his escape. However, Defendant did not meet the fifth requirement, because he failed to immediately report to authorities when he reached safety. Instead, Defendant went to Texas. If Defendant had stayed in contact with the CRC after leaving, he would have satisfied the Pinchon test. Therefore, even though the trial court erred in finding that the threats to Iron were not imminent, the court did not err in granting the State’s motion to exclude evidence of compulsion, as Defendant did not adequately meet the Pinchon conditions.


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