Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief filed under Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15, holding that the motion court did not err in denying postconviction relief. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree, armed criminal action, burglary in the first degree, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death. Defendant later moved for postconviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The motion court denied the postconviction motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the motion court did not err in denying Defendant's claims. View "Hosier v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC), which found cause to discipline Appellant's license as a peace officer, and the subsequent order of the Missouri Director of the Department of Public Safety, which permanently revoked Appellant's license, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 590.080 is valid. On appeal, Appellant argued that section 590.080, under which the AHC may find that cause for discipline exists of the licensee has committed a criminal offense, whether or not a criminal charge has been filed, violates principles of separation of powers embodied in Mo. Const. art. II, 1. Appellant further argued that the order of the Director revoking his license was not supported by competent and substantial evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) nothing in section 590.080 violates the separation of powers provision; and (2) there was ample competent and substantial evidence for the Director to conclude that continuing to license Appellant as a peace officer would not adequately protect the public. View "O'Brien v. Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the motion court to the extent it overruled Appellant's motion for postcondition relief on his driving while revoked conviction and affirmed the judgment in all other respects, holding that appellate counsel's failure to raise a sufficiency of evidence claim constituted deficient performance that prejudiced Appellant. Appellant was convicted of driving while intoxicated and driving while revoked. In his Mo. R. Civ. P. 29.15 motion for postconviction relief Appellant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call his physician to testify that certain prescription medications he took made him appear intoxicated by alcohol the night he was arrested and that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue there was insufficient evidence to enhance his driving while revoked misdemeanor to a felony. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellant's postconviction relief claim relating to his driving while intoxicated conviction was properly denied because there was no reasonable probability the trial court's finding would have been different had the physician testified at Appellant's trial; and (2) appellate counsel's failure to raise the sufficiency of the evidence claim constituted deficient performance by which Appellant was prejudiced. View "Hounihan v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the constitutional validity of Senate Bill. No. 638 (SB 638) and Senate Bill 665 (SB 665), holding that the bills do not violate Mo. Const. art. III, 21 or 23 and that Appellant failed to state a claim for relief regarding his substantive title change claim. Specifically, Appellant argued (1) the original purpose of the bills were changed by amendments such that, as enacted, the bills violated article III, section 21; (2) the final bills violated the single subject requirement of article III, section 23; and (3) the substantive changes to the bills' titles during the legislative process violated article III, sections 21 and 23. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the bills maintained their original purpose throughout the legislative process; (2) the bills did not violate the single subject requirement; and (3) the circuit court did not err in dismissing Appellant's substantive title change claim for failing to state a claim. View "Calzone v. Interim Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Roger Dorson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Defendant's Rule 29.15 motion for post conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Defendant failed to plead facts showing his counsel was ineffective. In his Rule 29.15 motion Defendant claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to seek suppression of methamphetamine found during a warrantless search of a cigarette pack seized from his pocket on the grounds that the search occurred thirty minutes after his arrest in an area outside his immediate control. The motion court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the search of Defendant's cigarette was a lawful search incident to arrest, and therefore, Defendant failed to plead facts showing his counsel was ineffective in not challenging the search. View "Greene v. State" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal from the circuit court's finding that D.C.M. committed an act that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the felony of making a terrorist threat in the second degree, the Supreme Court remanded this case to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether counsel was ineffective and otherwise affirmed the judgment, holding that the record was insufficient to determine whether counsel was ineffective. D.C.M. was sitting in a school cafeteria when he told another student that he felt like "blowing the school up" or wanted to see how it felt to "shoot the school up." Based on this evidence, the circuit court placed D.C.M. in the custody of the division of youth services for an indefinite term. The Supreme Court held (1) D.C.M.'s ineffective assistance of counsel claims could not be addressed on direct appeal because the record was insufficient to address these claims; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying counsel's request for a continuance; and (3) there was sufficient evidence for the circuit court to find beyond a reasonable doubt that D.C.M. committed an act which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the felony of making a terrorist threat in the second degree. View "D.C.M. v. Pemiscot County Juvenile Office" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding Defendant guilty of the first-degree murder of a ten-year-old girl and sentencing him to death, holding that none of Defendant's assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by (1) overruling Defendant's objection to the admission of photographs from the victim's cellphone; (2) admitting gun evidence found in Defendant's home; (3) admitting the contents of a folder containing photos of Defendant's female, middle school students and accounts of fictional sexual encounters with thirteen-year-old girls; (4) admitting victim impact evidence; (5) permitting the State to argue during closing argument that the jury could speak for the victim and her family by sentencing Defendant to death; and (6) sustaining the State's motion to strike a venire person for cause during the death qualification voir dire. Further, Defendant's constitutional arguments were unavailing, and Defendant's death sentence met all the statutory requirements. View "State v. Wood" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court accepting Defendant's guilty plea to first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and armed criminal action and sentencing him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that Defendant's counsel was effective and that Defendant's plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. After the circuit court imposed the sentence Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief alleging, among other things, that his counsel was ineffective, and therefore, his plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was not coerced into accepting the State's plea agreement; (2) Defendant was competent to plead guilty; and (3) counsel was not ineffective for declining to seek a second competency examination. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the labor and industrial relations commission affirming the award of the administrative law judge (ALJ) determining that Douglas Cosby was not entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits from the second injury fund pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3, holding that the commission did not err and that section 287.220.3, as applied to Cosby, does not violate the open courts provision or Cosby's due process and equal protection rights. Cosby injured his knee during the course of his employment. Cosby filed a workers' compensation claim against his employer and the second injury fund alleging that he was disabled as a result of his knee injury combined with his preexisting disabilities. An ALJ denied benefits, and the commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the commission properly interpreted section 287.220 to find that Cosby was not entitled to PPD benefits from the fund because his knee injury occurred after January 1, 2014; and (2) interpreting section 287.220.3(2) to not provide PPD benefits from the fund does not violate the Missouri open courts provision or Defendant's due process or equal protection rights. View "Cosby v. Treasurer of the State" on Justia Law

by
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