Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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Willbanks was 17 years old when he was charged with kidnapping, first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree robbery, and three counts of armed criminal action, based on a carjacking. He was convicted and sentenced to consecutive prison terms of 15 years for the kidnapping count, life for the assault count, 20 years for each of the two robbery counts, and 100 years for each of the three armed criminal action counts. On appeal, he argued his sentences, in the aggregate, will result in the functional equivalent of a life without parole sentence and that Missouri’s mandatory minimum parole statutes and regulations violate his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in light of the Supreme Court holding in Graham v. Florida (2010). The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Missouri’s mandatory minimum parole statutes and regulations are constitutionally valid under Graham. Graham held that the Eighth Amendment barred sentencing a juvenile to a single sentence of life without parole for a nonhomicide offense. Graham did not address juveniles who were convicted of multiple nonhomicide offenses and received multiple fixed-term sentences. View "Willbanks v. Missouri Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In connection with a home-invasion robbery and murder, Nathan, 16 years old, was convicted on 26 counts. Pursuant to RSMo 565.020.2, the court sentenced Nathan to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus five life sentences and five 15-year sentences, to be served consecutively. While Nathan's appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Miller v. Alabama, that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." In compliance with the Missouri Supreme Court's instructions on remand, the circuit court entered a finding of guilt for second-degree murder and for armed criminal action in connection with second-degree murder. The jury recommended a life sentence for the second-degree murder conviction, a 30-year sentence for the first-degree robbery conviction, a 15-year sentence for kidnapping, and three life sentences for the related armed criminal action convictions. Nathan requested resentencing by a jury on the 20 convictions that were not part of the remand, claiming a Brady violation because the state failed to disclose, before his original waiver of jury sentencing, a police report detailing an investigation into alleged sexual abuse committed against him. The court rejected his arguments and imposed the jury-recommended sentences, to run consecutively. On appeal, Nathan argued the combined effect of his consecutive sentences amounted to the functional equivalent of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed. View "State v. Nathan" on Justia Law

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Carl Kirk was committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 632.480 through 632.525. On appeal, the court of appeals transferred the case to the Supreme Court on the ground that the appeal involved issues within the Supreme Court’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction as set forth in Mo. Const. art. V, section 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the issues raised in this case did not fall within the Supreme Court’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction, and even thought he court of appeals erred in transferring the case, the Supreme Court granted transfer prior to opinion pursuant to Rule 83.01 and therefore had jurisdiction; (2) the SVPA, among other things, evidences no punitive intent and violates no constitutional prohibits against ex post facto laws, and the standard of proof required under the SVPA and employed in Kirk’s case is not unconstitutional; and (3) Kirk’s remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "In re Care & Treatment of Kirk" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a petition against the State for declaratory judgment alleging that provisions of Senate Bill 5 violated the special laws provision in the Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution, and five other constitutional claims. The trial court declared the SB 5 contained special laws and unfunded mandates and permanently enjoined the enforcement of those provisions. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the trial court’s judgment that Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.287 and 479.359.3 are Hancock violations because these claims were not ripe for review where the General Assembly has until August 28, 2021 to appropriate funds, and the alleged increased duty is de minimis; and (2) affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ other constitutional claims. View "City of Normandy v. Greitens" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional 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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St. Louis City’s Ordinance 70078 establishes a citywide local minimum wage. The trial court invalidated the Ordinance because it requires a higher minimum wage than the state requires in Mo. Rev. Stat. 290.502. In so ruling, the trial court concluded that Mo. Rev. Stat. 71.010, which includes a general prohibition on local laws that conflict with state laws, would bar such supplemental local minimum wage ordinances. The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the judgment invalidating Ordinance 70078, holding (1) the trial court correctly found that Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.1571 does not preempt Ordinance 70078 because section 67.1571 was enacted in a manner that violates Mo. Const. art. III, 23; (2) Missouri’s minimum wage law does not occupy the field of minimum wage laws, nor does it prohibit the adoption of local minimum wage ordinances such as Ordinance 70078; and (3) Ordinance 70078 is within the municipality’s police powers, and the City did not exceed its authority in enacting the minimum wage ordinance. View "Cooperative Home Care, Inc. v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional 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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At issue in this case was a proposed ordinance establishing a minimum wage for Kansas City. The City of Kansas City filed an action seeking to have the trial court order the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners and other election authorities serving the City to remove from the November 3, 2015 ballot the proposed ordinance, arguing that, if enacted, the ordinance would conflict with Mo. Rev. Stat. 285.055. Several individuals (collectively, the Committee), who proposed the ordinance using the initiative petition provisions of the Kansas City Charter, intervened in the City’s action, arguing that the proposal should remain on the ballot. The trial court entered judgment for the City and ordered that the measure be removed, concluding that the proposed ordinance was inconsistent with section 285.055. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims of the City and the Committee were premature. View "City of Kansas City v. Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners" on Justia Law