Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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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

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that Appellee's aggregate sentence for three separate crimes could be separated into discrete parts and that, after completion of a portion of the sentence he received for a violent offense Appellee was entitled to work credit on the remaining portion of his sentence attributable to nonviolent crimes, holding that a violent offender's aggregate sentence cannot be separated into discrete violent and nonviolent components for the purposes of awarding work-time sentence credit. Appellee was an inmate serving an aggregate sentence for both violent and nonviolent offenses. Appellant initiated an administrative review of his sentence, arguing that because the sentence for his only violent offense had been served, he was entitled to work-time credit. The Department of Corrections denied the credit, concluding that Appellee's total combined sentence was not partition able by offense and, as a violent offender, Appellee was not allowed work-time credit under Ky. Rev. Stat. 197.047. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Appellee was entitled to work-time credit on his nonviolent offense sentences. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the disallowance of work-time sentence credit to a violent offender in section 197.047 applies to the single, continuous sentence. View "Kentucky Department of Corrections v. Dixon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding Defendant guilty of multiple counts of sexual abuse and sodomy, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred when it allowed the government to present evidence under Ky. R. Evid. 404(b), when it did not allow the defense to present evidence under Ky. R. Evid. 412, and when it allowed Facebook messages into evidence because they were not properly authenticated. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in admitting the Rule 404(b) evidence; (2) the trial court did not err when it excluded evidence that one of the alleged victims made prior allegations of sexual misconduct against another person; and (3) any error in the authentication of the Facebook messages was waived by Defendant. View "Leach v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Appellant of four counts of first-degree sodomy and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and accepting Appellant's Alford plea as to other severed counts and sentencing Appellant to thirty years' imprisonment, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence pursuant to Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's motion for mistrial after a bystander gestured to a witness; and (3) the Commonwealth did not violate Moss. v. Commonwealth, 949 S.W.2d 579 (Ky. 1997) when questioning Appellant. View "Graham v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the trial court’s judgment that contained Defendant’s first-degree murder conviction and affirmed the remainder of the judgment, holding that errors made by the trial court affected the propriety of Defendant’s murder conviction and mandated reversal of this conviction. Defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, second-degree possession of a controlled instance, third-degree possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance not in its original container, holding (1) the trial court erred by allowing certain testimony into evidence; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in the handling of the characterization of missing evidence in this case; (3) the trial court did not abused its discretion when it restricted the testimony of Defendant’s false confession expert witness; (4) the trial court erred when it refused to consider certain evidence in determining whether to suppress Defendant’s confession; (5) the trial court erred when it prevented Defendant from testifying about certain out of court statements; and (6) as to all of Defendant’s conviction excluding his first-degree murder conviction, the trial court’s errors were harmless, but as to the murder conviction, they were not harmless. View "Tigue v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to twenty-five years for first-degree robbery, reckless homicide, and tampering with evidence, holding that there was no error in Defendant’s sentencing proceedings. Defendant was initially convicted for several convictions, including first-degree assault. Following the guilt phase of trial, Defendant waived jury sentencing and entered into a plea agreement as to sentencing. The trial court sentenced Defendant to twenty-five years in accordance with the agreement. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the first-degree assault conviction. On remand, the trial court again sentenced Defendant to twenty-five years. The Supreme Court affirmed the new sentence, holding (1) by entering a plea agreement, Defendant waived his right to jury sentencing; (2) the plea agreement constituted a contract between Defendant and the Commonwealth, but there were no ambiguities; and (3) the reversal of the assault conviction affected neither Defendant’s total sentence nor his parole eligibility. View "Hammond v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree sodomy, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and being a persistent felony offender in the first degree, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held that the trial court (1) did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the handgun or the victim’s testimony; (2) did not err by applying the protection of the Rape Shield Law to exclude evidence that the victim had previously engaged in prostitution; (3) did not err by allowing evidence that the victim was seventeen at the time the crime was committed; (4) did not err by ruling that the admission of the victim’s age at the time of the offense did not open the door to evidence of the victim’s prior prostitution; (5) erred by refusing to allow Defendant to stipulate that he was a convicted felon, but the error was harmless; and (6) did not err by failing to sever Defendant’s possession of a handgun by a convicted felon charge for a separate trial. View "Ward v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant’s conviction the Supreme Court exercised its discretion under Ky. R. Civ. P. 76.12(8)(a) and ordered the Commonwealth’s brief before this Court stricken and this appeal dismissed, holding that the Commonwealth failed to comply with section 76.12(4)(c)(iv) and (v). Defendant was found guilty of second-degree cruelty to animals. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred when it failed to grant Defendant’s motion for directed verdict. The Commonwealth filed a petition for rehearing, which the court of appeals denied. The Commonwealth then requested discretionary review from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted discretionary review, and the parties filed briefs. The Supreme Court struck the Commonwealth’s brief from the record and dismissed its appeal, holding (1) because the Commonwealth failed to provide any support for its factual assertions in both its statement of the case and argument sections of its brief, it failed to meet the substantial requirement of pinpoint citations to the record specific in section 76.12; and (2) the Commonwealth did not make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements of sections 76.12(4)(c)(iv) and (v). View "Commonwealth v. Roth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of various crimes for his role as a complicitor in a home invasion, holding that there was no merit to the arguments Defendant raised in this appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court correctly denied Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict; (2) the conviction of the principal actor to a lesser offense based on a plea agreement does not preclude the prosecutor from pursuing a greater offense against the complicitor at trial; (3) the trial court did not err in allowing certain testimony; (4) the admission of evidence of Defendant’s purported prior bad acts did not amount to reversible error; (5) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of cell phone use between Defendant and the principal actor; (6) no reversible error occurred from the trial court’s exclusion from evidence of a photograph showing Defendant in the hospital four days after the home invasion; and (7) the trial court did not err when it did not poll the jury after the foreperson reported an apparent mistake regarding Defendant’s recommended sentence. View "Probus v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of murder and two counts of tampering with physical evidence, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err when it denied Defendant’s motions for directed verdict on the charges of tampering with physical evidence; (2) no reversible error occurred from the trial court’s jury instructions on protection of another; and (3) the trial court did not err when it allowed the Commonwealth to introduce several photographs of the victim’s body. View "Clark v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law