Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's order revoking Defendant's probation and imposing her cumulative sentence of thirty years' imprisonment in accordance with her consolidated guilty pleas, holding that the trial court made sufficient oral and written findings supporting its decision to revoke Defendant's probation. In reversing and remanding the trial court's decision, the court of appeals held that the trial court's findings were not adequate under Ky. Rev. Stat. 439.3106. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court complied with section 439.3106 and the holding in Commonwealth v. Andrews, 448 S.W.3d 443 (Ky. 2014), in making sufficient oral and written findings supporting its decision to revoke Defendant's probation. View "Commonwealth v. Gilmore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of several sex-related crimes, holding that the trial court erred by not striking one of the jurors for cause. A jury found Defendant guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual abuse, two counts of third-degree rape, four counts of third-degree sodomy, and other crimes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment or, in the alternative, to disqualify the Commonwealth Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department; (2) the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to remove Juror 277 for cause during jury selection was an error that mandated reversal; (3) there was no reversible error from the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress; and (4) the trial court did not err in refusing to admit a social worker's conclusions about the victim's credibility stemming from past allegations of sexual abuse. View "Ward v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of murder, assault in the first degree, tampering with physical evidence, fleeing or evading police in the second degree, and possession of a handgun by a minor, holding that insufficient evidence was presented that Defendant's flight "create[d] a substantial risk of[] physical injury to any person." See Ky. Rev. Stat. 520.095. Defendant was charged with, among other charges, fleeing or evading police in the first degree. At the close of the Commonwealth's case-in-chief, the trial court granted Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the charge of fleeing or evading police in the first degree, amending the charge to fleeing or evading police in the second degree. Defendant was found guilty of this amended charge. The Supreme Court vacated the fleeing or evading police in the second degree conviction, holding that the trial court erred in finding sufficient evidence was presented to submit this amended charge to the jury. As to Defendant's remaining arguments on appeal, there was no other prejudicial error. View "Hunter v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and other offenses, holding that Defendant's conviction and sentence for tampering with physical evidence required reversal because the trial court erred in denying the motion for a directed verdict with respect to that charge. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing certain testimony; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal on the first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance charge; but (3) the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the charge of tampering with physical evidence. View "McGuire v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of leaving the scene of an accident and sentencing him to twenty years' imprisonment, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant raised two claims of error, only one of which he preserved for appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no palpable error from the arresting officer's testimony referring to the field sobriety "tests" he administered and stating that Defendant "failed" them; and (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of assault in the fourth degree because such an instruction was unwarranted. View "Iraola-Lovaco v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for first-degree sexual abuse and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender (PFO1), holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's argument that he was denied a unanimous verdict because the jury was only instructed on one count of sexual abuse when two separate allegations were introduced at trial was not subject to appellate review; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial because the jury pool was not tainted due to a social media post. View "Rudd v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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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