Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, the decision of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal from a trial court order not authorizing payment of the full amount of an interpreter's invoiced bill, holding that statutory obligation for payment made the current proceeding inappropriate for resolution of this matter. The public defender's office requested and received approval from the circuit court for interpreting services with respect to Defendant's interview with the police department. The circuit court initially authorized the interpreting services and subsequent orders approved and/or reduced the interpreter's fee. After Defendant was convicted he filed a motion for reconsideration of expert witness fees challenging the trial court's reduction of the interpreter's fees. The trial court declined to approve additional funds. Defendant appealed the order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal on grounds that the appeal was not timely filed and that an indispensable party - the interpreter - was not named in the notice of appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that payment for the interpreter's services was, by statute, a matter between her and the public defender's office, the requesting agency. View "Hernandez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of first-degree sodomy, victim under twelve years old, and Defendant's sentence of forty years' imprisonment, holding that the trial court did not commit reversible error. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's argument that a juror's failure to disclose during voir dire that she went to school with Defendant's sister-in-law entitled Defendant to a new trial was not properly preserved for appellate review; (2) the trial court did not commit reversible error by dismissing a juror as the alternate instead of declaring a mistrial; and (3) the trial court did not coerce the jury into reaching a verdict. View "Wright v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree rape and imposing a twenty-year term of imprisonment, holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict and by denying his motion to suppress his statements to police. Defendant's rape sentence was enhanced pursuant to the jury finding Defendant guilty of being a first-degree persistent felony offender (PFO 1), which was based on an out-of-state statutory rape conviction. Defendant filed a motion for a directed verdict on the PFO 1 charge asserting that the Commonwealth failed to prove Defendant committed a prior sex crime against a minor. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while it is better practice to introduce a minor victim's age into evidence as part of the PFO proof, "statutory rape" is commonly understood to be the offense of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the PFO charge; and (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress because Defendant's Fifth Amendment rights were not violated. View "Bullitt v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for first-degree fleeing or evading police and first-degree wanton endangerment, holding that the evidence was sufficient to prove Defendant created a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death, the common element to both charges, when the police pursued him in a motor vehicle chase. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove that, as to both first-degree wanton endangerment and first-degree fleeing or evading, his act of fleeing in a vehicle caused or created substantial risk of serious physical injury or danger of death or serious injury to property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the evidence, it was not clearly unreasonable for a jury to find Defendant guilty of the crimes. View "Culver v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of murder, first-degree assault, and first-degree wanton endangerment and sentencing him to thirty-five years' imprisonment for these crimes, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial court (1) did not abuse its discretion in allowing the Commonwealth to present evidence that one of Defendant's co-defendants had been shot in the months leading up to the murder; (2) did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Defendant could not call a particular impeachment witness on the grounds that the witness had a Fifth Amendment right not to testify; and (3) did not err in denying Defendant's right to a speedy trial. View "McLemore v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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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