Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered in his vehicle during a traffic stop, holding that the initial traffic stop was impermissibly prolonged to allow a canine search to proceed. Therefore, the dog sniff that followed was unreasonable and constitutionally impermissible and must be suppressed. Upon entered a conditional plea, Appellant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, first degree, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Appellant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence found after a canine sniff search indicated the presence of drugs. The Supreme Court reversed the motion to suppress, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, while the initial traffic stop was valid, the stop was unconstitutionally prolonged. View "Moberly v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Appellant’s conviction and corresponding sentence for tampering with physical evidence but affirmed the trial court as to Appellant’s remaining convictions of murder, first-degree robbery, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. The Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not allow defense counsel to argue in closing that the Commonwealth produced no evidence of motive; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the Commonwealth to introduce unauthenticated call logs, but the error was harmless; (3) the trial court erred in failing to grant a directed verdict as to the tampering with physical evidence charge; and (4) the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct on facilitation to murder and first-degree robbery. View "Baker v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles does not always offend the federal or Kentucky Constitutions, so long as it comports with a discretionary scheme and the defendant has a meaningful opportunity for the jury to consider mitigating evidence. Appellant was under the age of eighteen when he participated in the murder of two people and the deadly assault of a twelve-year-old girl. The circuit court sentenced Appellant to LWOP. In this appeal from the denial of relief on Appellant’s third Ky. R. Criminal. P. 11.42 motion and his second Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion, the Supreme Court held (1) Appellant’s sentencing was constitutionally permissible; but (2) under this Court’s more recent rulings regarding penalties allowable under the juvenile code, Appellant’s sentence was statutorily prohibited. Consequently, the Court remanded this case for the trial court to impose the lawful sentence of LWOP for twenty-five years. View "Phon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Appellant to thirty years’ imprisonment for murder and for being a first-degree persistent felony offender. The Court held that the trial court (1) did not err by permitting the Commonwealth to elicit testimony from the coroner about the victim’s estimated time of death; (2) did not err by denying Appellant’s motion to continue the trial; (3) did not err by disqualifying one of Appellant’s attorneys; (4) erred by admitting evidence about the victim’s state of mind prior to his murder, but the error was harmless; and (5) did not err by instructing the jury as to self-defense and extreme emotional disturbance. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of raping and murdering Pamela Armstrong and sentencing Defendant to death. The Court held (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Appellant as addressed by Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) the trial court’s failure to define the terms “modus operandi” and “identity evidence” in the jury instructions did not violate Appellant’s due process rights; (3) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s refusal to suppress Defendant’s DNA sample; (4) there was no error in the trial judge’s refusal to disqualify himself from presiding over Appellant’s trial; (5) Appellant was not entitled to a new trial on the grounds that the trial court improperly admitted unreliable evidence; (6) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not require reversal; and (7) Appellant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of raping and murdering Pamela Armstrong and sentencing Defendant to death. The Court held (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Appellant as addressed by Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) the trial court’s failure to define the terms “modus operandi” and “identity evidence” in the jury instructions did not violate Appellant’s due process rights; (3) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s refusal to suppress Defendant’s DNA sample; (4) there was no error in the trial judge’s refusal to disqualify himself from presiding over Appellant’s trial; (5) Appellant was not entitled to a new trial on the grounds that the trial court improperly admitted unreliable evidence; (6) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not require reversal; and (7) Appellant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Section 115 of the Kentucky Constitution bars the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. Here, the Commonwealth appealed Defendant’s judgment of acquittal on the charge of failing to register a change of address with the Sex Offender Registry. The Commonwealth argued that its appeal was not barred by section 115 because Defendant’s judgment of acquittal was based not on the jury’s verdict but on the trial court’s issuance of a judgment of acquittal. The court of appeals allowed the appeal to proceed and reversed the trial court’s judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 115 prevents the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal. The Court overruled any precedent stating that section 115 derives itself from section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution and that the Commonwealth may appeal a judgment non-obstante verdicto (n.o.v.). View "Maupin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Section 115 of the Kentucky Constitution bars the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. Here, the Commonwealth appealed Defendant’s judgment of acquittal on the charge of failing to register a change of address with the Sex Offender Registry. The Commonwealth argued that its appeal was not barred by section 115 because Defendant’s judgment of acquittal was based not on the jury’s verdict but on the trial court’s issuance of a judgment of acquittal. The court of appeals allowed the appeal to proceed and reversed the trial court’s judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 115 prevents the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal. The Court overruled any precedent stating that section 115 derives itself from section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution and that the Commonwealth may appeal a judgment non-obstante verdicto (n.o.v.). View "Maupin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this case involving an alleged denial of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel, the Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly denied trial counsel’s motion to withdraw because, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant failed to demonstrate that his lawyer was burdened by an actual conflict of interest during his representation of Defendant. Defendant was convicted of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender. Once Defendant’s attorney discovered that he had a potential conflict, he filed a motion to withdraw as Defendant’s attorney. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals ruled that the trial court erred by failing to grant counsel’s motion to withdraw and reversed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding that Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to conflict-free counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Muchrison" on Justia Law

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In this case involving an alleged denial of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel, the Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly denied trial counsel’s motion to withdraw because, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant failed to demonstrate that his lawyer was burdened by an actual conflict of interest during his representation of Defendant. Defendant was convicted of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender. Once Defendant’s attorney discovered that he had a potential conflict, he filed a motion to withdraw as Defendant’s attorney. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals ruled that the trial court erred by failing to grant counsel’s motion to withdraw and reversed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding that Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to conflict-free counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Muchrison" on Justia Law