Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s first-degree robbery conviction and sentence, vacated his persistent felony offender (PFO) conviction and sentence, which was predicated upon the underlying first-degree robbery conviction, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred when it failed to direct a verdict on the first-degree robbery charge. After a jury convicted Defendant of first-degree robbery Defendant pleaded guilty to the PFO charge. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the trial court did not err by failing to dismiss the indictment for an alleged violation of Defendant’s right to a speedy trial; (2) the trial court erred when it denied Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the first-degree robbery charge; and (3) the trial court should have conducted further review of Defendant’s request to make opening and closing statements himself. View "Lang v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions of two counts of murder and sentence of life without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by proceeding with voir dire without Defendant present. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court improperly conducted voir dire when Defendant was unable to be present and that the court erred when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085(1). The Supreme court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to be present at jury selection pertaining to thirty-one jurors that were questioned in his absence, and the error was not harmless; and (2) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085. View "Truss v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court held that even though evidence of a previous conviction may be prohibited to allow a general attack on the witness’s credibility under Ky. R. Evid. 609(b), evidence of the witness’s lifetime parole status stemming from the conviction may be admissible to allow a more specific attack on the witness’s credibility by showing bias or motive to lie under the broader scope of Ky. R. Evid. 611. Defendant was convicted of fourth-degree assault. The court of appeals reversed, holding that evidence of a witness’s lifetime parole status was admissible under Rule 611 and that the trial court abused its discretion by excluding such evidence. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a witness’s status as a parolee is admissible on cross-examination as impeachment evidence pursuant to Rule 611 despite a provision in Rule 609(b) that would render evidence of a more than thirty-year-old conviction upon which the witness’s parole was based as presumptively too remote in time. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by prohibiting Defendant from cross-examining the witness about his motive or bias but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Commonwealth v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of kidnapping with serious physical injury and other offenses, holding that the trial court did not err when it instructed the jury on the crime of kidnapping with serious physical injury. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court’s jury instruction on the crime of kidnapping with serious physical injury was improper because the serious physical injury suffered by the victim was inflicted before the kidnapping occurred. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court did not err in instructing the jury because the victim did suffer a serious physical injury “during the kidnapping” because Defendant’s infliction of the serious physical injury could be said to be the “first step of the kidnapping.” View "Malone v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 motion without a hearing, holding that counsel’s failure to advise a client of the sex offender registration requirement constitutes deficient performance. Defendant pled guilty to criminal attempt to commit kidnapping of a minor victim and other offenses. After he was released from prison, Defendant learned that, as a consequence of his guilty plea, he was required to register under Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510 as a person who had committed sex crimes or crimes against minors. Defendant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to Rule 11.42, claiming that counsel had failed to discuss the sex offender registration requirement with him. The circuit court denied the motion without a hearing, ruling that counsel’s failure to advise his client about registration did not warrant relief under Rule 11.42. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a defendant has a right to effective assistance of counsel concerning the requirement to register as a sex offender. View "Commonwealth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences for first-degree rape, incest, and first-degree sexual abuse but vacated his conviction for second-degree fleeing or evading and the portion of the trial court’s judgment imposing a fine, holding (1) the Commonwealth erred in failing to re-present the case to the grand jury after the indictment against Defendant was dismissed, but Defendant’s due process rights were not violated; (2) the Commonwealth concedes that there was insufficient evidence for Defendant’s conviction of second-degree fleeing or evading; (3) the trial court did not err in failing to grant a mistrial after the victim testified to evidence that had been excluded by the trial court; (4) Defendant’s verdicts for rape, incest, and sexual abuse were unanimous; and (5) the Commonwealth concedes that the trial court erred in imposing a fine on an indigent defendant. View "Kelly v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded Defendant’s conviction for two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and affirmed his conviction for two counts of first-degree sodomy, holding that the jury instructions on the sexual abuse counts violated the unanimity requirement. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in allowing duplicitous instructions on sexual abuse in violation of the unanimity requirement for jury verdicts; (2) the jury instructions for sexual abuse and for sodomy did not subject Defendant to double jeopardy; (3) the trial court did not err in the method of impeachment of the victim’s testimony or in admitting a recorded interview; (4) the trial court erred by admitting a recorded phone call as an adoptive admission, but the error was harmless; and (5) any error in running Defendant’s sentences consecutively instead of concurrently will be cured on remand. View "King v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that Defendant was entitled to a new persistent felony offender (PFO) and sentencing trial because because the proceedings were fundamentally unfair. A jury found Defendant guilty of robbery and two counts of kidnapping and found Defendant to be a PFO. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the two kidnapping charges, but before Defendant was retried on the kidnapping charges, he filed a RCr 11.42 motion alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel stemming from a juror’s presence on the jury who was biased toward Defendant. The circuit court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court held (1) the guilt phase of trial was not fundamentally unfair where no one knew of the juror’s bias toward Defendant during voir dire or the guilt phase of the trial; but (2) once the juror realized that he was Defendant’s former victim prejudice could be presumed, and Defendant was entitled to a new PFO and sentencing trial. View "Commonwealth v. Douglas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree assault and for being a first-degree persistent felony offender and his sentence of thirty-five years’ imprisonment, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred by failing to excuse Juror #25, who served as a member of the jury even though he was peremptorily struck by Defendant, but the error was not palpable; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting recorded portions of Defendant’s police interrogation. View "Cummings v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of complicity to kidnapping, complicity to attempted murder, and complicity to first-degree robbery and sentencing Defendant to a total of forty years’ imprisonment, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for directed verdict on his kidnapping charge; (2) Defendant was not tried in the wrong county; (3) Defendant suffered no undue prejudice when he was denied a continuance; (4) any error in the admission of the victim’s statements was harmless, and there was no prosecutorial misconduct in references to the victim’s statements; and (5) the jury instructions contained no unanimity error. View "Brown v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law