Kansas v. Cheever
571 U.S. ___ (2013)

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Justia Opinion Summary
After Cheever was charged with capital murder, the Kansas Supreme Court found the state death penalty scheme unconstitutional. State prosecutors dismissed their charges to allow federal authorities to prosecute Cheever, who filed notice of intent to introduce expert evidence that methamphetamine intoxication negated his ability to form specific intent. The district court ordered Cheever to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. The federal case was eventually dismissed. In the meantime, the Supreme Court found the Kansas death penalty scheme constitutional. The state brought a second prosecution. Cheever raised a voluntary intoxication defense, offering expert testimony regarding his methamphetamine use. The prosecution sought to present testimony from the expert who had examined Cheever by the federal court order. Defense counsel argued that since Cheever had not agreed to the examination, introduction of the testimony would violate the Fifth Amendment. The trial court allowed the testimony. The jury found Cheever guilty and imposed a death sentence. The Kansas Supreme Court vacated the conviction. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated and remanded. If a defense expert who has examined the defendant testifies that the defendant lacked the requisite mental state, the prosecution may present psychiatric evidence in rebuttal. The rule is not limited to situations where the evaluation was requested jointly by the defense and the prosecution, nor does it matter whether state law referred to extreme emotional disturbance as an affirmative defense. The Court rejected an argument that Cheever did not waive his Fifth Amendment privilege because voluntary intoxication is not a mental disease or defect under state law. Mental status, rather than “Mental disease or defect” is the salient issue. When a criminal defendant chooses to testify, the Fifth Amendment does not allow him to refuse to answer related cross-examination questions. Excluding the testimony would have undermined the core truth-seeking function of trial.
  • Syllabus
  • Opinion (Sonia Sotomayor)

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

KANSAS v. CHEEVER

certiorari to the supreme court of kansas

No. 12–609. Argued October 16, 2013—Decided December 11, 2013

Shortly after respondent Cheever was charged with capital murder, the Kansas Supreme Court found the State’s death penalty scheme unconstitutional. State prosecutors then dismissed their charges to allow federal authorities to prosecute him. When Cheever filed notice that he intended to introduce expert evidence that methamphetamine intoxication negated his ability to form specific intent, the Federal District Court ordered Cheever to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. The federal case was eventually dismissed without prejudice. Meanwhile, this Court held the State’s death penalty scheme constitutional, see Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U. S. 163 . The State then brought a second prosecution. At trial, Cheever raised a voluntary intoxication defense, offering expert testimony regarding his methamphetamine use. In rebuttal, the State sought to present testimony from the expert who had examined Cheever by the Federal District Court order. Defense counsel objected, arguing that since Cheever had not agreed to the examination, introduction of the testimony would violate the Fifth Amendment proscription against compelling an accused to testify against himself. The trial court allowed the testimony, and the jury found Cheever guilty and voted to impose a death sentence. The Kansas Supreme Court vacated the conviction and sentence, relying on Estelle v. Smith, 451 U. S. 454 , in which this Court held that a court-ordered psychiatric examination violated a defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights when the defendant neither initiated the examination nor put his mental capacity in dispute. The court distinguished the holding of Buchanan v. Kentucky, 483 U. S. 402 , that a State may introduce the results of such an examination for the limited purpose of rebutting a mental-status defense, on the basis that voluntary intoxication is not a mental disease or defect under Kansas law.

Held: The rule of Buchanan, reaffirmed here, applies in this case to permit the prosecution to offer the rebuttal evidence at issue. Pp. 4–10.

     (a) In Buchanan, the prosecution presented evidence from a court-ordered evaluation to rebut the defendant’s affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance. This Court concluded that this rebuttal testimony did not offend the Fifth Amendment, holding that when a defense expert who has examined the defendant testifies that the defendant lacked the requisite mental state to commit an offense, the prosecution may present psychiatric evidence in rebuttal. Buchanan’s reasoning was not limited to the circumstance that the evaluation was requested jointly by the defense and the government. Nor did the case turn on whether state law referred to extreme emotional disturbance as an affirmative defense. Pp. 4–6.

     (b) The admission of rebuttal testimony under the rule of Buchanan harmonizes with the principle that when a defendant chooses to testify in a criminal case, the Fifth Amendment does not allow him to refuse to answer related questions on cross-examination. See Fitzpatrick v. United States, 178 U. S. 304 . Here, the prosecution elicited testimony from its expert only after Cheever offered expert testimony about his inability to form the requisite mens rea. Excluding this testimony would have undermined Buchanan and the core truth-seeking function of trial. Pp. 6–7.

     (c) This Court is not persuaded by the Kansas Supreme Court’s reasoning that Cheever did not waive his Fifth Amendment privilege because voluntary intoxication is not a mental disease or defect as a matter of state law. “Mental disease or defect” is not the salient phrase under this Court’s precedents, which use the much broader phrase “mental status,” Buchanan, 483 U. S., at 423. Mental-status defenses include those based on psychological expert evidence as to a defendant’s mens rea, mental capacity to commit the crime, or ability to premeditate. To the extent that the Kansas Supreme Court declined to apply Buchanan because Cheever’s intoxication was “temporary,” this Court’s precedents are again not so narrowly circumscribed, as evidenced by the fact that the courts where Buchanan was tried treated his extreme emotional disturbance as a “temporary” condition. Pp. 7–8.

     (d) This Court declines to address in the first instance Cheever’s contention that the prosecution’s use of the court-ordered psychiatric examination exceeded the rebuttal-purpose limit established by Buchanan, see 483 U. S., at 424. Pp. 9–10.

295 Kan. 229, 284 P. 3d 1007, vacated and remanded.

     Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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