Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s post-conviction motion requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty, holding that Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.130(2), a statute with an outdated test for ascertaining intellectual disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Eventually, Defendant filed a Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 and 60.03 motion alleging that he is intellectually disabled. The trial court denied the motion without conducting a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing consistent with this opinion, holding that section 532.130(2) does not go far enough in recognizing that, in addition to ascertaining intellectual disability using a bright-line test to determine death-penalty-disqualifying intellectual disability, prevailing medical standards should always take precedence in a court’s determination. View "Woodall v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court ordering that the results of blood alcohol tests obtained by the police be suppressed, holding that no statutory violation occurred in this case. After Defendant was arrested, the arresting officer read the pertinent portion of the statutory implied consent warning to Defendant and asked him to submit to an intoxilyzer test. Defendant agreed to do so, and the result of the test was a .266 blood alcohol level. The district court denied Defendant’s motions to suppress his .266 intoxilyzer result and to dismiss his third offense DUI charge. The circuit court reversed, determining that Defendant had been denied his statutory right to obtain an independent blood test and that his due process right had been violated since the results of the independent test may have provided exculpatory evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Defendant failed to argue that any additional assistance by the officer could have resulted in Defendant obtaining a blood test, no statutory violation occurred; and (2) Defendant received due process. View "Commonwealth v. Riker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of first-degree robbery, kidnapping, third-degree burglary, and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender and sentence of fifty years’ imprisonment, holding that none of Defendant’s claims on appeal had merit. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding Defendant’s eyewitness expert testimony; (2) the trial court did not err in failing to prohibit law enforcement officers from presenting expert testimony regarding boot prints and infrared cameras; (3) the photo pack shown to the victim was not unduly suggestive; and (4) there was no error, let alone cumulative error warranting reversal. View "Welch v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating Defendant’s sentence as a persistent felony offender (PFO) in the first degree to ten years’ imprisonment in connection with his conviction of third-degree assault on the grounds that Defendant’s second trial violated his rights against double jeopardy, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution. After a mistrial, the Commonwealth indicted Defendant as a PFO, first-degree. After a second trial, Defendant was convicted of one count of third-degree assault. The Court of Appeals vacated the conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions because jeopardy had clearly and unrefutably attached in Defendant’s case and there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial. View "Commonwealth v. Padgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree assault, first-degree sexual abuse, and first-degree unlawful imprisonment and sentence of sixty years as a persistent felony offender, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated; (2) the trial court did not err in failing to appoint Defendant substitute counsel; (3) the trial court did not commit reversible error in advising Defendant of the right to or appoint stand-by or hybrid counsel; (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (4) any error in the trial court’s decision to exclude evidence under the Rape Shield Law was harmless; and (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in advising Defendant of his right to recall a witness. View "Henderson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the Commonwealth’s petition for a writ to prohibit enforcement of a trial court’s order authorizing the use of public funds for the procurement of private-expert assistance in William Meece’s post-conviction proceedings under Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the use of public funds. Meece moved to vacate his judgment of conviction under Rule 11.42. Meece requested the use of private experts in proving his motion. The trial court granted in part and denied in part Meece’s public-funding request after holding an ex parte hearing. The Commonwealth then filed this petition for a writ of prohibition, arguing that the trial court erred in authorizing the use of public funds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in holding the ex parte hearing to determine whether Meece was entitled to the requested state funds; and (2) the circuit court’s hearing to determine whether Meece was entitled to public funds for the procurement of private experts was not premature. View "Commonwealth v. Honorable John R. Grise" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder but affirmed his remaining convictions and sentences, holding that several errors on the trial court in this case affected the propriety of Defendant’s murder conviction and demanded reversal of this conviction. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in excluding certain evidence and in admitting other evidence and inappropriately handled the characterization of missing evidence. The Court then found that these errors constituted harmless error as to all of Defendant’s convictions, with the exception of the first-degree murder conviction, but that the errors did affect the propriety of Defendant’s murder conviction. View "Tigue v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of two counts of murder, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, tampering with physical evidence, and being a first-degree persistent felony offender, holding that the trial court did not commit reversible error. After a jury convicted Defendant, the trial court accepted a total effective sentence of life imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no reversible error in the trial court’s admission of certain evidence at trial and that the errors that did occur in this case did not rise to the level of reversible cumulative error. View "Mason v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea, holding that a conflict of interest did not exist when Appellant’s counsel represented him on the motion to withdraw the plea and that Appellant was not coerced into entering a guilty plea. Appellant entered a guilty plea to four counts of first-degree robbery and related crimes. Before he was sentenced, Appellant filed a motion to withdraw his plea based on his alleged misunderstanding regarding his sentence. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record did not support either Appellant’s argument that his counsel had a conflict of interest at the hearing on the motion to withdraw the plea or that Appellant was coerced to enter the plea. View "Dorsey v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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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