Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court judgments denying two employers’ requests for permanent writs of mandamus against the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). The circuit court rejected Employers’ arguments that the MCHR was required to first determine whether Employers’ employees’ complaints of discrimination were timely filed with the MCHR before the MCHR had authority to issue the employees a right-to-sue letter. The Supreme Court held (1) Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.111.1 requires the MCHR to issue a right-to-sue letter and terminate all proceedings related to a complaint if 180 days have elapsed and the employee has made written request for a right-to-sue letter; and (2) because that is what occurred in both of these cases, the MCHR was required to issue the right-to-sue letters, and the circuit court properly refused to issue writs directing the MCHR to perform an act the MHRA prohibits. View "State ex rel. Tivol Plaza, Inc. v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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In 1983, Carr was convicted capital murder for killing his brother, stepmother, and stepsister when he was 16 years old. He was sentenced to three concurrent terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. His sentences were imposed without any consideration of his youth. The Missouri Supreme Court granted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. His sentences violate the Eighth Amendment because, following the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without parole pursuant to mandatory sentencing schemes that preclude consideration of the offender’s youth and attendant circumstances. Carr was sentenced under a mandatory sentencing scheme that afforded no opportunity to consider his age, maturity, limited control over his environment, the transient characteristics attendant to youth, or his capacity for rehabilitation. Carr must be resentenced so his youth and other attendant circumstances surrounding his offense can be taken into consideration to ensure he will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Carr v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree for shooting and killing two deputies. Appellant was sentenced to death. Appellant’s convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Thereafter, the motion court granted Appellant post-conviction relief and remanded the case for a new penalty phase. After the penalty phase retrial, the jury recommended that Appellant be sentenced to death on each count. The trial court sentenced Appellant in accordance with the jury’s recommendation. Appellant’s death sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Appellant then filed a Mo. R. Crim. P. motion for post-conviction relief, alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The motion court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the motion court did not clearly err in finding that Appellant failed to establish that he was provided ineffective assistance of trial or appellate counsel. View "Tisius v. State" on Justia Law

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When William Fleming failed to pay his court costs within the first three years of his probation, Fleming’s probation was revoked and execution of his concurrent seven-year sentences was ordered. Fleming filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the sentencing court violated his due process and equal protection rights by revoking his probation solely because he was indigent. The Supreme Court issued a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the sentencing court’s revocation of Fleming’s probation violated Fleming’s Fourteenth Amendment rights because the court failed to inquire into the reasons for Fleming’s failure to pay his court costs. View "State ex rel. Fleming v. Missouri Board of Probation & Parole" on Justia Law

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David DePriest and Natalie DePriest, brother and sister, were charged separately with offenses arising from their cultivation of marijuana plants. The DePriests were represented by the same counsel throughout their separate criminal proceedings. The DePriests jointly pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea deal on counsel’s recommendation. The trial court accepted both DePriests’ pleas. Thereafter, the DePriests filed separate motions for postconviction relief pursuant to Mo. R. Crim. P. 24.035, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel because defense counsel continued to represent both of them long after it became clear during the plea negotiations that there was an actual conflict of interest between them. The motion court denied both motions without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the motion court’s judgments and remanded the cases for further proceedings, holding that both David and Natalie alleged sufficient facts to state a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under Rule 24.035, and therefore, the motion court erred in denying the DePriests an evidentiary hearing. Remanded. View "DePriest v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police after being read his Miranda rights. The trial court sustained the motion, concluding that Defendant’s statement, “I ain’t signing shit without my attorney” was an invocation of his right to counsel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant failed to clearly and unequivocally assert his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, and even assuming Defendant’a partially invoked his right to counsel, there was no Fifth Amendment violation when the police questioned Defendant after he refused to sign a consent to search form. View "State v. Holman" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree burglary and stealing. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Thereafter, Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request an instruction on the lesser-included offense of trespass as an alternative instruction to second-degree burglary. The circuit court overruled Defendant’s motion following an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that counsel’s performance did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness under the performance prong of Strickland v. Washington and that there was no need to address the prejudice prong. View "McNeal v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his challenge during voir dire to one of the prosecutor’s peremptory strikes under Batson v. Kentucky because the prosecutor failed to offer a race-neutral explanation for striking the venireperson. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions, holding that the trial court clearly erred in denying Defendant’s Batson challenge where the prosecutor failed to offer a reasonably specific and clear race-neutral explanation for the strike. Remanded. View "State v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a former police officer with the Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), filed a complaint against SLMPD, the Saint Louis Board of Police Commissioners (Board), and related individuals, alleging that Defendants retaliated against her in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in tendering Instruction No. 8 to the jury because the instruction confused the facts regarding Respondent’s disability claim and misdirected the jury about the Board’s legal authority to refuse Respondent’s disability pension application, and Defendants were prejudiced by the instruction’s submission. Remanded. View "Ross-Paige v. Saint Louis Metro. Police Dep’t" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree. Thereafter, Appellant filed a Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief claiming that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to verdict directors that allegedly violated his constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict and for failing to hire an expert to testify at the sentencing hearing. The motion court overruled Appellant’s motion for post-conviction relief. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant established that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to two insufficiently specific verdict directors, and therefore, the motion court clearly erred in denying post-conviction relief. Remanded. View "Hoeber v. State" on Justia Law