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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant's Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, holding that Appellant's claims of error were unavailing. After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the death of a Missouri highway patrolman. The jury was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The circuit court subsequently conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Thereafter, Appellant filed his Rule 29.15 motion. The motion court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that counsel were not ineffective in failing to question Juror 58 during voir dire about the provocative and violent novel he admitted writing and in failing to call other jurors in support of Appellant's motion for new trial. View "Shockley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a petition seeking a declaratory judgment that Governor Michael Parson's appointment of Mike Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor was unauthorized under Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.030, holding that Darrell Cope had standing and that the Governor has the authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor in the event of a vacancy. The Governor Eric Greitens resigned and Governor Parson succeeded Greitens to the office of Governor, the office of Lieutenant Governor was left vacant. Governor Parson appointed Kehoe to be the Lieutenant Governor. Darrell Cope and the Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) filed a petition seeking injunctive and declaratory relief alleging that Governor Parson lacked legal authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that Cope and the MDO did not have standing to challenging Governor Parson's appointment of Kehoe. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Cope had taxpayer standing to seek a declaratory judgment in this case; and (2) Mo. Const. Art. IV, 4 controls the authority of the Governor to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, and Governor Parson was within his constitutional authority when he appointed Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor. View "Cope v. Parson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court declaring House Bill No. 2007 (HB2007), an appropriations statute, to be unconstitutional and enjoining the State from terminating Plaintiff's employment on the basis of the severed language, holding that restricting funding for the payment of an administrative law judge's (ALJ) salary based on that ALJ's date of appointment violates the separation of powers requirement of the Missouri Constitution. The circuit court declared certain provisions of HB2007 unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff, an ALJ, severed the unconstitutional language from the statute, and permanently enjoined the State from terminating Plaintiff's employment pursuant to the unconstitutional language. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that HB2007 is unconstitutional to the extent that it restricts the use of funds for the payment of ALJ salaries based on the ALJ's date of appointment, as applied to Plaintiff, and therefore, Plaintiff was entitled to declaratory relief and the permanent injunction he sought in this case. View "Rebman v. Parson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case resulting in Defendant's convictions of first- and second-degree murder and sentence of death for the first-degree murder and life imprisonment for the second-degree murder, holding that Defendant's second-degree murder conviction must be reversed and that the judgment on the first-degree murder must be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court erred when it refused to submit Defendant's proposed jury instructions for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that Defendant acted out of sudden passion arising from adequate cause; (2) the circuit court erred in admitting statements made in violation of Defendant's Miranda rights, but the error was harmless; (3) the circuit court violated Defendant's right to due process by admitting evidence of his post-Miranda silence, but those violations were harmless; and (4) the circuit court erred when it overruled Defendant's objection to the State's penalty phase closing argument in which the State made an impermissible reference to Defendant's decision not to testify, and this error required the judgment on the first-degree murder to be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. View "State v. Rice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition barring the circuit court from taking any further action other than vacating its order granting class certification, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying an overly broad class with a class representative whose claims were not typical of the class. Plaintiff filed the underlying class action on behalf of all other similarly situated Missouri consumers alleging that Defendant and its predecessors or successors violated statutory notice requirements relating to the repossession and disposition of collateral and collected unlawful interest following default and repossession of the collateral. The circuit court certified two classes and designated Plaintiff as the sole class representative. Defendant then filed a petition for a writ of prohibition arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying the class. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying a class with Plaintiff as the sole class representative where her claims were not typical of the class and she was not a member of the subclass. View "State ex rel. General Credit Acceptance Co. v. Honorable David L. Vincent III" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of possession of a controlled substance - methamphetamine - holding that while the State clearly violated the rules of discovery by failing timely to disclose a recorded statement Defendant made, the discovery violation did not warrant the sanction of excluding the evidence. Here, the State did not disclose the recorded statement at issue until four days before trial. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to exclude the recorded statement from evidence as a sanction for the alleged discovery violation. Defendant did not seek a continuance as a remedy to the discovery violation in her pretrial motion. The circuit court overruled Defendant's motion to exclude the evidence. The jury returned a verdict finding Defendant guilty of felony possession of methamphetamine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because a continuance would have remedied any alleged prejudice to Defendant the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Defendant's motion for sanctions. View "State v. Zuroweste" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court, after a bench trial, finding Defendant “not guilty” of felony sexual misconduct involving a child by indecent exposure because the statute under which he was charged was unconstitutionally overbroad as applied to Defendant’s case, holding that, based on the record, the Court was unable to ascertain the precise nature of the circuit court’s ruling. On appeal, the State argued that the circuit court’s judgment was equivalent to a dismissal of the indictment following a guilty verdict, and therefore, Defendant was not acquitted of the offense. In response, Defendant argued that the circuit court’s judgment was a judgment of acquittal because the circuit court expressly found him not guilty. Therefore, Defendant argued, the appeal was barred by double jeopardy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions to enter a new judgment, holding that the Court could not consider the appeal or motion to dismiss on the merits because the Court was unable to determine if the judgment was an acquittal or a dismissal. View "State v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court awarding Matthew Vacca actual and punitive damages, including substantial future lost wages, on his claim that he was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging disability discrimination, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to Vacca’s claim of future lost wages. The circuit court found Vacca claimed in this case that he could have continued to work as an administrative law judge (ALJ) for twenty more years. In Vacca’s ongoing dissolution proceeding, however, he claimed he was entitled to maintenance because he was totally unable to work due to his disability. The circuit court concluded that it was barred from applying judicial estoppel because the dissolution judgment had been remanded for further proceedings based on evidentiary errors. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) once a party takes inconsistent positions, there are no fixed prerequisites to application of judicial estoppel; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to preclude Vacca from making the inconsistent claim that he was able to work as an ALJ for another twenty years with reasonable accommodations. View "Vacca v. Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ of mandamus to compel the circuit court to dismiss with prejudice Relator’s charge of driving while intoxicated, holding that Relator did not demonstrate a clear and unequivocal right to the dismissal of his charge because the plain language of Mo. Rev. Stat. 577.037.2 does not require a pretrial hearing or pretrial determination on the motion. Relator filed a motion under section 577.037.2 asserting that because the chemical analysis demonstrated that his blood alcohol concentration was under the legal limit, and because the State did not present evidence to prove the dismissal was unwarranted, the charge should be dismissed. The circuit court overruled the motion. Relator then sought a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ of mandamus, holding (1) a pretrial hearing or pretrial determination on the section 577.037.2 motion is not required; (2) the circuit court has discretion to order that a hearing and determination on the motion be deferred until trial; and (3) because the circuit court’s overruling of the motion effectively deferred the matter until trial, Relator could seek relief on appeal. View "State ex rel. McCree v. Honorable Wesley Dalton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the suspension of Appellant’s driver’s license for driving while intoxicated, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) the filing of a report with the department of health and senior services showing that a driver’s blood alcohol content was over the legal limit is a collateral requirement that does not affect the performance of the test or its validity or accuracy, and therefore, the failure to timely make that filing was not preclude admission of the report; (2) the implied consent notice complied with due process because it accurately informed Appellant that his license would be suspended immediately if he refused the breath test; and (3) a later notice of suspension given Appellant after he failed the breath test accurately informed him of the facts statutorily required to suspend his license and how to request a hearing. View "Carvalho v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law