Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree assault and armed criminal action, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to submit a self-defense instruction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred by refusing to submit a self-defense instruction. In response, the State argued that Defendant was not entitled to a self-defense instruction because Defendant denied stabbing the victim. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State, holding (1) the only relevant inquiry when a defendant requests an instruction on a theory of defense is whether, after viewing all the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the theory propounded by the defendant, there was substantial evidence to support the requested instruction; and (2) the circuit court erred in failing to give a self-defense instruction because there was substantial evidence to support the submission of such an instruction. View "State v. Barnett" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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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

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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

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The Supreme Court issued a permanent writ of mandamus ordering the circuit court to reinstate Gary Sampson's previous probationary term, holding that the circuit court erred in placing Sampson on a third term of probation. In his writ of mandamus seeking his immediate discharge from probation Sampson argued that the circuit court lost authority by placing him on a third term of probation and therefore erred by overruling his motion to be discharged from probation and setting the matter for a probation violation hearing. The Supreme Court agreed that the circuit court erred by placing Sampson on a third term of probation but, because it was unclear whether the circuit court had authority to conduct a probation violation hearing or whether Sampson's probation expired statutorily, the circuit court was required to enter an order continuing Sampson's valid second term of probation. View "State ex rel. Sampson v. Honorable William E. Hickle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court exercised its discretion not to dismiss this appeal as moot and held that the circuit court erred in placing Trevor Griffith, who had already been discharged from parole, on a third term of probation. Griffith filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking an immediate release from custody and to be discharged from probation. Specifically, Griffith argued that the circuit court exceeded its authority after revoking and terminating his second term of probation and executing his sentence. After this case was submitted, Griffith was released from his incarceration and discharged from parole. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court erred in placing Griffith on a third term of probation; (2) when a circuit court places a defendant on an erroneous third term of probation, the case should be remanded to determine the proper course of the defendant's sentence; and (3) because Griffith had been released and discharged, he should not be returned to custody to make this determination. View "State ex rel. Griffith v. Precythe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the revocation of Appellant's driving privileges for refusing to submit to a chemical test, holding that Appellant's refusal to consent to the chemical test was not voluntary and unequivocal under Mo. Rev. Stat. 577.041. The circuit court sustained the decision of the director of revenue revoking Appellant's driving privileges for one year. On appeal, Appellant argued that his refusal to consent to the chemical test was not voluntary and unequivocal because law enforcement deprived him of his statutory right to counsel by listening to and making recordings of his part of the conversation with his attorney. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining the revocation of Appellant's driving privileges because law enforcement deprived Appellant of his right to confer privately with his attorney, and the director failed to show that Appellant was not prejudiced. View "Roesing v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent its preliminary writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from holding a probation revocation hearing and ordered the circuit court to discharge Travis Jones from probation, holding that Jones's term of probation had expired, and therefore, the circuit court lost the power to revoke his probation. As grounds for the writ, Jones argued that the circuit court failed to make every reasonable effort to hold his probation revocation hearing prior to the expiration of his term of probation and lost authority to do anything other than order his discharge from probation. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Court lost the power to revoke Jones's probation because it failed to make every reasonable effort to bring Jones before the court before the term of probation expired. View "State ex rel. Jones v. Honorable Eric Eighmy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law