Articles 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

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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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Sanders was convicted of murder in the second degree and is serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of Sherilyn Hill (RSMo section 565.021.1). Consistent with the indictment, the trial court instructed the jury it must find Sanders guilty of second-degree murder if the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Sanders knowingly caused Hill’s death by “kicking her and strangling her.” The court also instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter, which, like the second-degree murder instruction, required the jury to determine whether Sanders caused Hill’s death by “kicking her and strangling her.” The trial court refused Sanders’ requested instruction on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter, which would have required the jury to determine whether Sanders “recklessly” caused Hill’s death by “kicking her.” The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. The trial court did not err by refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter because Sanders’ proffered involuntary manslaughter instruction impermissibly modified the charged offense by requiring the jury to find he caused Hill’s death by kicking her as opposed to kicking and strangling her. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Jorgensen knocked Stout unconscious. Jorgensen and Jensen beat Stout with their fists and baseball bats and stomped on his head, chest, and midsection, then dragged him into the woods and left him for dead. The next day, they returned and discovered Stout was alive. Jorgensen stabbed Stout multiple times and attempted to cut his throat, then tried to shoot Jensen. Jensen ran away and called for help. Jensen eventually led authorities to Stout’s body, claiming that he acted under duress. The state charged Jensen, as a persistent offender, with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and abandonment of a corpse. The court instructed the jury on first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter and that duress was an affirmative defense to voluntary manslaughter but refused to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter. Jensen was convicted of second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and abandonment of a corpse. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed. The court's error in refusing Jensen’s properly requested instruction on involuntary manslaughter was prejudicial because the omitted instruction would have directly tested whether Jensen acted “recklessly” as opposed to “knowingly.” Jensen’s claims that the court erred in failing to declare a mistrial due to the admission of evidence of uncharged misconduct, comments the defendant had “gangster tattoos all over him,” and the emotional outburst of the victim’s mother were without merit.The court did not reverse Jensen’s conviction for abandonment of a corpse. View "State v. Jensen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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Brown went to Whitehead’s apartment and requested that Whitehead come outside. Whitehead recognized Brown and followed him downstairs. As they reached an exterior door, Brown pointed a gun at Whitehead and fired. Whitehead fell as he ran into the building, believing he had been shot. He had a hole in his shirt and a graze on his back. Whitehead was injured when he fell against a door, which was hit by the bullet. The state charged Brown, as a persistent offender, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. The court's first-degree assault instruction asked the jury to determine whether Brown “attempted to kill or cause serious physical injury to Dylan Whitehead by shooting at him.” The second-degree assault instruction asked the jury to determine whether Brown “attempted to cause physical injury to Dylan Whitehead by means of a deadly weapon by shooting at him.” Both provided a person “attempts” to cause a certain result when they act “with the purpose” of causing that result. The court refused Brown’s instruction for third-degree assault, which would have required the jury to determine whether Brown “recklessly created a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to Dylan Whitehead by shooting at him.” The jury convicted Brown of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed. The trial court's error in failing to instruct the jury on third-degree assault was prejudicial. There is a basis in the evidence from which the jury could conclude Brown recklessly created a grave risk of death or serious physical injury. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law