Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's pro se petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court so that she may file a petition for writ of error coram nobis in her criminal case, holding that Petitioner's claims did not establish a ground for the writ. Petitioner was convicted of aggravated robbery and theft of property and sentenced to an aggregate term of 480 months' imprisonment. The court of appeals affirmed. In her coram nobis petition Petitioner claimed that there was a conflict of interest in her representation, a Brady violation, and misconduct on the part of the prosecutor. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that Petitioner failed to state sufficient allegations to satisfy issuance of the writ. View "Joiner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal from the denial of his pro se petition to proceed in forma pauperis in a habeas proceeding, which rendered moot Appellant's motion to supplement the record, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's petition. In denying the petition, the circuit court found that the petition for writ of habeas corpus raised a jurisdictional issue that had already been decided. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly denied the petition and that this Court already addressed the issue raised by Appellant in a prior appeal. View "Russell v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Appellant's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 16-112-101, holding that Appellant did not state a ground for the writ. Appellant, who was convicted of residential burglary and rape, filed his habeas petition in the county where he was currently incarcerated, alleging that he had been denied a speedy trial. The circuit court dismissed the habeas petition on the merits, holding that Appellant had not been denied a speedy trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed the petition and did not err in not holding a hearing on the petition. View "Noble v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court treated the three pro se motions filed by Petitioner seeking leave to proceed with an appeal of an order that denied his motion for writ of habeas corpus as motions for belated appeal and denied the motions, holding that Petitioner did not meet his burden of establishing good cause for not abiding by the rules that govern the orderly administration of justice. Petitioner filed to file a timely notice of appeal from the order from which he sought to appeal. Petitioner also filed a motion to correct the circuit court's order and other motions. The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's request to proceed with a belated appeal and declared moot the remaining motions, holding that Petitioner failed to show good cause for his failure to file a timely notice of appeal. View "D'Angelo v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the firearm enhancements applied to Defendant's sentence and affirmed Appellant's convictions and sentences in all other respects, holding that because the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant used a firearm as a means of committing terroristic acts, his twenty-nine one-year sentences imposed as firearm enhancements must be reversed. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, a terroristic act causing death, and twenty-eight counts of terroristic acts. Further, Defendant was subject to enhanced penalties pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-120, the firearm-enhancement statute. The Supreme Court struck the firearm enhancements but otherwise affirmed, holding that the jury did not clearly find that Defendant employed a firearm as a means of committing the twenty-nine terroristic acts, and therefore, the twenty-nine firearm enhancements imposed by the jury must be reversed. View "Ellis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Appellant's pro se petition for a writ of error coram nobis, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying coram nobis relief. Appellant pleaded guilty to one count of rape. In his petition, Appellant alleged that his guilty plea was the result of fraud and coercion because the terms of the plea agreement were changed after he signed it and his trial counsel coerced him into "answering loudly and affirmatively" during the plea hearing. The trial court denied the petition for failing to state a cognizable claim for the issuance of the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's petition for a writ of error coram nobis where Appellant was properly informed of the charges to which he was pleading guilty and where Appellant presented no evidence that his guilty plea was coerced. View "Malone v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis or to vacate his conviction, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the petition. Appellant pleaded nolo contendere to first degree battery and unlawful possession of a firearm. Appellant later filed a pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis or to vacate his conviction, arguing that his plea was coerced because his attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel during the plea hearing. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's allegations of ineffective assistance and his conclusory conspiracy accusation did not present a valid claim for coram nobis relief. View "Jones v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's pro se motion to vacate his amended sentencing order entered under the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (FMSA) and remanded for resentencing in accordance with the decision in Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64 (Ark. 2018), holding that the circuit court lacked the authority to sentence Appellant under the FSMA. Appellant was sixteen years old when he was convicted of capital murder. Following the decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Appellant petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The circuit court issued the writ, vacated Appellant's mandatory sentence of life without parole, and remanded for resentencing. Before Appellant's resentencing hearing, however, the FSMA was passed. The circuit court subsequently sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years pursuant to the FSMA. Appellant filed a pro se motion to vacate the amended sentencing order. The circuit court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to rule on Appellant's motion to vacate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, pursuant to its decision in Harris, the circuit court erred in applying the FSMA to Appellant's case, and Appellant was entitled to a hearing to present Miller evidence for consideration. View "Scherrer v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's seventh pro se petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that Petitioner failed to raise claims that were cognizable in coram nobis proceedings. Petitioner was convicted of two counts of rape. In his coram nobis petition at issue in this case Petitioner raised new claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and reasserted a conflict of interest claim, both of which were either raised and rejected or should have been raised in a previous Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1 proceeding. The Supreme Court denied the petition, which rendered moot Petitioner's motion to rebut the State's response to his petition, holding that, as with his first six petitions, Petitioner asserted claims that were not cognizable in a petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for a writ of error coram nobis. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Appellant's pro se petition to correct an illegal sentence under Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-111, holding that the trial court correctly denied relief where Appellant failed to establish that his sentence was illegal and the petition was untimely filed. Appellant was found guilty in 1993 of aggravated robbery and other offenses. In his petition under section 16-90-111 Appellant alleged that the sentence for aggravated robbery was illegal because it exceeded the "mandatory minimum" sentence permitted under the sentencing statutes in effect when he committed the offenses and that his convictions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of the petition, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief because, pursuant to either section 16-90-111 or Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, Appellant's petition was not timely filed. View "Wesley v. State" on Justia Law