TOPEKA, Kan. — The Supreme Court reversed the Reno County District Court’s finding that a Kansas man was in direct contempt for refusing to testify at a co-defendant’s jury trial.
The court vacated the 108-month prison sentence imposed for that contempt. The court held that the state’s offer of immunity against self-incrimination was not broad enough to protect 36-year old Jose Delacruz’s constitutional rights.
The case arose after Delacruz was convicted of aggravated robbery. The state subpoenaed him to be a witness in the trial of Anthony Waller for crimes relating to the same incident, which included the killing of Joshua Haines on April 10, 2010.
When Delacruz attempted to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the state offered him immunity. He still refused to testify.
Delacruz was later tried for criminal contempt and convicted in a bench trial on stipulated facts. He was sentenced to an additional 108 months in prison, to run consecutively to his 83-month sentence for the aggravated robbery.
On appeal, the court held that the state’s offer of immunity was incomplete. It did not cover all of the possibilities in which Delacruz’s testimony could have been used against him.
Since the grant of immunity was not coextensive with the constitutional right against self-incrimination, the court reversed the conviction and vacated the sentence.