Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction and sentence for the murder of her mother and remanded this case for a new trial, holding that the trial court's application of the principles in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), led to errors that required that the circuit court's judgment be vacated and a new trial held. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) under the circumstances of this case, the trial court should have summarily granted funds for a defense examination pursuant to Ake; (2) the trial court by permitting the Commonwealth to have access to a Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center (KCPC) criminal responsibility report written by Dr. Amy Trivette, a KCPC staff member; and (3) testimony elicited by the Commonwealth that overemphasized the insanity defense terminology was improper. The Court then remanded the case for a new trial. View "Conley v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the searches and seizures leading to Defendant's conviction were illegal under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution, holding that the circuit court's suppression order was insufficient for appellate review. Defendant entered a conditional Alford plea to one count of possession of a controlled substance, third degree, and a conditional Alford plea to one count of possession of marijuana. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motions to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a traffic stop. The court of appeals upheld the denial of his motions to suppress. The Supreme Court remanded the case for entry of sufficient findings of fact, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in analyzing Defendant's claim that the searches and seizures were illegal under the state and federal constitutions; but (2) the circuit court's order of suppression was factually insufficient for appellate review of Defendant's claim that his detention was unlawful and that the evidence must be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. View "Warick v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's opinion reversing Defendant's murder conviction and ordering a new trial, holding that there was not a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different but for any of defense counsel's purported deficiencies. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed Defendant's conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, concluding that Defendant's counsel was ineffective in representing Defendant during his murder trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that while defense counsel did make some mistakes at trial, those mistakes did not render his assistance ineffective. View "Commonwealth v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions but reversed and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding that palpable error occurred when the Commonwealth gave the jury incorrect parole eligibility information. Defendant was convicted of first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, and second-degree wanton endangerment. Defendant was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions but reversed Defendant's sentence, holding that the trial court (1) did not commit palpable error by allowing certain hearsay testimony into evidence; (2) did not err by denying Defendant's requested instructions on second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass; (3) did not err by providing instructions to the jury during deliberation; (4) committed palpable error by not correcting the Commonwealth's misstatement of Defendant's parole eligibility on the first-degree burglary charge; and (5) erred by limiting Defendant's testimony during the penalty phase. View "Beard v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of murder and sentencing him to thirty years in prison, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress a videotaped conversation between Defendant and family members that took place in an interrogation room shortly after Defendant was arrested; (2) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motions for a mistrial and a new trial; and (3) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to prohibit the introduction of crime scene and autopsy photographs. View "Easterling v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun and sentencing him to life imprisonment, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held, contrary to Defendant's arguments on appeal, that (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's request for a first-degree manslaughter instruction under extreme emotional disturbance; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to admonish the jury as to the use of threats; and (3) no discovery violation occurred regarding Defendant's prior convictions prior to the penalty phase. View "Posey v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction and twenty-seven-year sentence for the murder of her mother and remanded this case for a new trial, holding that the trial court's application of principles in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), in this case led to errors that entitled Defendant to a new trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred by failing to grant Defendant's request for funds to hire a mental health professional for a defense examination pursuant to Ake and instead ordering that a criminal responsibility examination be conducted by the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center (KCPC); (2) the fruits of the erroneous trial court that resulted in a criminal responsibility report prepared by the KCPC should be excluded upon retrial; and (3) testimony elicited by the Commonwealth KCPC staff member regarding Defendant's appreciation of the consequences of her acts was improper. View "Conley v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Defendant's motion for shock probation, holding that the Commonwealth waived its ability to raise that issue on appeal by failing to object during the trial court proceedings. Defendant pled guilty to two counts of distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor and twenty counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. While serving his sentence, Defendant filed a motion for shock probation. The Commonwealth did not object to the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction over that motion, and the trial court granted the motion. For the first time on appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the trial court was without jurisdiction to entertain Defendant's motion. The court of appeals agreed and reversed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the Commonwealth's issue was not reviewable by the Supreme Court because the Commonwealth never objected to the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction over Defendant's motion. View "Martin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an offender placed on post-incarceration supervision does not receive a constitutionally sufficient final revocation hearing before the Kentucky Parole Board under the current procedures. David Wayne Bailey was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, and after serving a sentence, was released to a period of post-incarceration supervision (supervision). When Bailey failed to complete sex offender treatment as directed, a final revocation hearing was held. Bailey was not provided notice of the time and place of the hearing, did not have counsel to represent him, and was not able to present witnesses or further testimony on the alleged violations. After the hearing, the Parole Board revoked Bailey's post-incarceration supervision. Bailey filed a petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the Board's procedures on due process grounds. The circuit court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the reversal of the order of dismissal, holding that Bailey's due process rights were violated but that Ky. Rev. Stat. 31.110 does not provide an offender a statutory right to counsel at a revocation hearing; and (2) reversed the appellate court's holding regarding due process requirements and section 31.110. View "Jones v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress blood test results obtained via a court order directing the hospital at which Defendant was treated after an accident to test Defendant's blood for drugs and alcohol, holding that the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was driving while intoxicated when she struck and killed two pedestrians standing on a sidewalk. After Defendant was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, the hospital tested Defendant's blood. In her motion to suppress Defendant argued that the testing violated her Fourth Amendment rights because the court order was not a search warrant. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court order was for all intents and purposes a valid search warrant and that no violations of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights occurred. View "Whitlow v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law