Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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 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 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 vacated the judgment of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice R.M.A.’s petition alleging that Defendants, a school district and school board, unlawfully discriminated against him on the grounds of his sex in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.065, holding that R.M.A.’s petition alleged facts that, if taken as true, established the elements of a claim under section 213.065. R.M.A. filed suit alleging that his “legal sex is male” and that, by denying him access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms, Defendants discriminated against him in the use of a public accommodation “on the grounds of his sex.” The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that R.M.A. stated a claim under section 213.065.2. View "R.M.A. v. Blue Springs R-IV School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (Commission) on Appellants’ consolidated allegations of violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (Act), Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.010 et seq., holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Appellants’ claims failed under Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling Corp., 478 S.W.3d 479 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). Specifically, the circuit court relied upon Pittman’s holding that the Act does not include claims for sex discrimination based upon sexual orientation and then extended that rationale to include claims for sex discrimination based upon sex stereotyping. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the Commission improperly characterized Appellants’ claims as sexual orientation discrimination, and therefore, the circuit court’s reliance on Pittman was misplaced; and (2) the circuit court erred in issuing summary judgment in favor of Defendant because the Act covers sex discrimination. View "Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing Mary Doe’s second amended petition seeking to enjoin the enforcement of a portion of the Missouri Informed Consent Law, Mo. Rev. Stat. 188.027 - which she alleged required her to read a booklet, have an ultrasound, and wait seventy-two hours before having an abortion - for failure to state a claim, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the petition. In her petition, Doe claimed that requiring her to read the booklet violated her rights under the Establishment Clause and that reading the booklet and requiring her to have an ultrasound violated her rights under the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.302.1. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Doe’s request for injunctive relief, holding (1) the informed consent law does not adopt any religious tenant but requires those seeking an abortion be offered a booklet that repeats two principles set out in Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.205; (2) the informed consent law does not require a pregnant woman to read the booklet or to have an ultrasound; and (3) Doe did not allege how the seventy-two hour waiting period conflicts with her religion or that it was an undue burden. View "Doe v. Parson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding the board of regents of Harris-Stowe State University liable on Dr. Shereen Kader’s claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. The jury returned a verdict in Dr. Kader’s favor on her claims of national original discrimination and retaliation, awarding $750,000 in actual damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages. The circuit court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Harris-Stowe argued that the circuit court’s disjunctive jury instructions Nos. 8 and 9 misled and confused the jury, thereby resulting in prejudice. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial because they included at least one alternative that did not constitute actionable conduct under the MHRA. View "Kader v. Board of Regents of Harris-Stowe State University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision overruling Defendant’s motion suppress evidence found during a warrantless search and seizure of a bag that the police seized from the back seat of the vehicle in which Defendant had been riding, holding that no prejudice resulted from the suppression motion being overruled. On appeal, Defendant argued that under Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009), and State v. Carrawell, 481 S.W.3d 833 (Mo. banc 2016), the evidence should have been suppressed because, contrary to the ruling of the circuit court, the drugs and drug paraphernalia in the bag were not within his possession or control when the bag was seized. The Supreme Court affirmed without reaching the issue of whether Gant or Carrawell required the suppression of the evidence, holding that any error was not prejudicial because other unchallenged evidence fully supported the judgment reached by the circuit court. View "State v. Hughes" on Justia Law

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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 postconviction relief after an evidentiary hearing, holding that the motion court did not err. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. The circuit court adopted the jury’s recommendations and sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for one murder and to death for the other murder. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. At issue in this appeal was the motion court’s judgment overruling Appellant’s Rule 29.15 motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to postconviction relief for ineffective assistance of counsel because Appellant did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that he was entitled to relief under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). View "Anderson v. State" on Justia Law