Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Article I, section 35 of the Missouri Constitution, which protects “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices” does not create a new constitutional right to engage in the illegal drug trade. Defendant appealed his convictions of producing more than five grams of marijuana, possession of more than five grams of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia, arguing that the statutes prohibiting marijuana cultivation and possession violate the constitutional right to farm guaranteed by article I, section 35. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the plain, ordinary, and natural meaning of article I, section 35 demonstrates no purpose to sub silentio repeal laws criminalizing the cultivation or possession of controlled substances; and (2) Defendant’s marijuana cultivation operation was not a farming practice to be protected by article I, section 35. View "State v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, felony abuse of a child, and forcible sodomy. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for murder and to consecutive sentences of life imprisonment for felony child abuse and forcible sodomy. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in (1) admitting evidence of Defendant’s juvenile adjudication for lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor; and (2) admitting evidence that pornographic websites were viewed on Defendant’s cellular telephone and computer. View "State v. Prince" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted writs of prohibition directing the circuit court to vacate its orders sustaining Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 29.12(b) motions and amending the stealing convictions and sentences of Jesse Nelson and Jack Walker II, holding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the Rule 29.12(b) motions and amend the judgments. Nelson and Walker pleaded guilty to the class C felony of stealing property worth $500 or more. Both defendants were placed on probation. The Supreme Court subsequently held that the offense of stealing could not be enhanced to a felony pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 570.030.3(1). Thereafter, Nelson and Walker filed motions pursuant to Rule 29.12(b) seeking to amend their convictions and sentences to reflect that stealing property worth $500 or more was a class A misdemeanor. The circuit court sustained the motions and amended the judgments in both cases. The prosecuting attorney sought writs of prohibition directing the circuit court to vacate its orders. The Supreme Court granted the requested relief, holding that the plaint language of Rule 29.12(b) does not provide for an independent post-sentence procedure, and therefore, the circuit court’s action taken after imposing the sentences was a nullity and void. View "State ex rel. Zahnd v. Honorable James W. Van Amburg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its authority by sustaining Robby Ledford’s Rule 29.07(d) motion to withdraw his plea of guilty to felony stealing and resentencing him as a misdemeanor offender. In his Rule 29.07(d) motion, Ledford claimed his conviction and sentence for felony stealing were unlawful and constituted manifest injustice pursuant to State v. Bazell, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016). The circuit court sustained the motion, issued an order amending the stealing charge from a felony to a class A misdemeanor, and resentenced Ledford. The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court’s order erroneously assumed that Bazell applies retroactively, and therefore, Ledford’s claim was both procedurally defaulted and substantively meritless. View "State ex rel. Fite v. Honorable Laura Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant’s amended Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing and remanded the case, holding that Appellant’s amended motion was filed out of time, but the motion court did not conduct an abandonment inquiry to determine whether appointed counsel abandoned Appellant. Appellant pleaded guilty to two counts of the class C felony of possession of a chemical with the intent to create a controlled substance. Appellant later filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief. The motion court appointed a public defender to represent Appellant. Appellant later filed his amended motion. The Supreme Court held that the amended motion was untimely. View "Bearden v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Appellant of murder in the second degree and armed criminal action. The court held (1) Appellant’s claim that the self-defense instruction submitted was incorrect was not meritorious because Appellant jointly drafted the instruction, thereby waiving plain error review of this claim; (2) Defendant also waived plain error review related to his claim that the trial court erred in refusing his instruction on his lack of duty to retreat; (3) the trial court did not commit plain error by declining to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter; (4) the trial court did not plainly error by failing to exclude evidence of uncharged misconduct; and (5) there was no error in the trial court’s rulings regarding closing arguments. View "State v. Clay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court denied habeas relief to Petitioners, four individuals, who were incarcerated for their convictions for the class C felony of stealing property worth $500 or more but less than $25,000, in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. 570.030.3(1). Petitioners were sentenced to either six or seven years’ imprisonment based on the felony classification. Petitioners sought habeas corpus relief, claiming that they were sentenced in excess of the maximum sentence authorized by law because the offense of stealing is a class A misdemeanor that could not have been enhanced to a felony pursuant to the statute then in effect. The Supreme Court denied habeas relief, holding that Petitioners received a sentence that was authorized by a different interpretation of section 570.030 without objection and should not receive the benefit of retroactive application of this court’s decision in State v. Basel, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. 2016). View "State ex rel. Windeknecht v. Mesmer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant’s amended motion for postconviction relief filed under Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15. On appeal, the State asserted that the motion court erred by considering Appellant’s amended Rule 29.15 motion on the merits because it was untimely filed by Appellant’s retained counsel on Appellant’s behalf. Appellant argued that the untimely filing must be excused because his retained counsel abandoned him. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellant’s amended Rule 29.15 motion was untimely filed, but the abandonment doctrine does not apply to retained counsel and therefore does not excuse retained counsel’s untimely filing; and (2) the ineffective assistance of counsel claim raised in Appellant’s timely filed pro se motion was without merit. View "Gittemeier v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant’s Rule 24.035 motion challenging her felony conviction for driving while intoxicated. The motion court overruled the motion after holding an evidentiary hearing. The court of appeals, acting sua sponte, vacated the judgment and remanded with instructions for the motion court to dismiss the motion as untimely. The Supreme Court granted transfer and remanded the matter for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Appellant timely filed her Rule 24.035 motion, holding that, even though Appellant failed to plead and prove the timeliness of her Rule 24.035 motion, the state did not contest the timeliness of the motion, and therefore, Appellant was not given the opportunity to demonstrate that her motion was timely filed. View "Hall v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the sentences imposed upon Defendant after the circuit court convicted him of thirteen counts stemming from the sexual abuse of his two step-daughters and his biological daughter. At sentencing, the State requested that the circuit court find Defendant to be a predatory sexual offender. The circuit court found Defendant was be a predatory sexual offender and sentenced him to eight concurrent terms of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole for each of his five first-degree statutory sodomy convictions and three first-degree statutory rape convictions. Defendant appealed his sentences, arguing that the circuit court improperly sentenced him as a predatory sexual offender. The Supreme Court held (1) because the circuit court did not find Defendant to be a predatory sexual offender until his sentencing, after the case had been submitted to the jury, the court failed to comply with the timing requirement of Mo. Rev. Stat. 558.021.2; but (2) the circuit court’s timing error did not result in manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law