Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the chairman of the Missouri board of probation and parole's motion to dismiss Appellant's petition for declaratory judgment in which he sought a declaration of his right to a parole hearing, holding that the repeal of Mo. Rev. Stat. 195.295.3 did not render Appellant parole eligible. In 2013, a jury found Appellant guilty of drug trafficking in the second degree for acts committed in 2009. Defendant was sentenced under section 195.295.3 as a prior drug offender to a term of imprisonment without eligibility for parole. After the general assembly repealed section 195.295 in January 2017, Appellant filed his petition for declaratory judgment arguing he was eligible for parole because the statute that had rendered him parole ineligible had been repealed. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that the repeal of the statute could not be applied retroactively because it would alter Appellant's sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant's parole ineligibility was part of his sentence, the repeal of section 195.295.3 did not render him eligible for parole. View "Mitchell v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining Respondent's motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting Respondent a hearing on his single-count petition for declaratory judgment claiming his parole eligibility should no longer be governed by Mo. Rev. Stat. 195.295 and releasing Respondent on parole, holding that the repeal of section 195.295 had no effect on Respondent's parole eligibility. Respondent was found guilty of trafficking drugs in the second degree for acts committed in May 2006. Respondent was sentenced as a prior drug offender to twenty-five years' imprisonment without eligibility for parole under section 195.295. On January 1, 2017, section 195.295 was repealed. At issue was the legal effect section 195.295's repeal had on Respondent's eligibility for parole. The Supreme Court held that, for the reasons set forth in Mitchell v. Jones, __ S.W.3d __, also decided today, Respondent was not eligible for parole. View "Woods v. Missouri Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's guilty by mental disease or defect (NGRI) plea that the circuit court accepted after finding Defendant lacked competence to continue with the criminal proceedings, holding that the circuit court exceeded its authority under Mo. Rev. Stat. 552.020.8 and violated Defendant's due process rights. Defendant was charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. After accepting Defendant's NGRI plea the circuit court found Defendant lacked competence to proceed and committed him to the department of mental health. The Defendant sought a writ of habeas corpus arguing that, pursuant to section 552.020.8, upon finding him incompetent, the circuit court was required to suspend the proceedings and commit him to the department of mental health. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that, by accepting Defendant's NGRI plea despite finding him incompetent to proceed, the circuit court exceeded its authority pursuant to section 552.020.8 and violated Defendant's due process rights. View "State ex rel. Kelly v. Inman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of felony possession of a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court did not err in admitting evidence obtained from Defendant's statements and a search of his vehicle after a traffic stop. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in overruling his motion to suppress because the traffic stop was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) crossing the fog line and driving on the shoulder is a traffic violation and creates a lawful justification for a traffic stop; and (2) the stop in this case was justified after Defendant's vehicle crossed the fog line and drove on the shoulder and therefore did not constitute an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of one count of first-degree assault and one count of felony resisting arrest, holding that sufficient evidence supported a finding that Defendant resisted an arrest for an offense and that offense constituted a felony as a matter of law. At the close of the State's evidence Defendant moved for judgment of acquittal. The circuit court overruled the motion as to the counts at issue on this appeal. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal on the felony resisting arrest count because there was insufficient evidence presented to support a finding of guilt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction of felony resisting arrest. View "State v. Shaw" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of attempted enticement of a child, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Defendant was convicted of attempted enticement of a child, in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. 566.161, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err or deprive Defendant of a fair trial in failing to submit Defendant's proffered instructions; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in sustaining the State's objection to the cross-examination of the victim's sister, from whom Defendant sought to elicit testimony as to whether the victim had a tendency to exaggerate. View "State v. Michaud" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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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

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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

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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