Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed orders of the trial court denying Appellant’s motions to suppress evidence that was seized by the local police department and state police and then returned to the individuals who reported the items stolen, holding that Appellant received a fair trial and that the search warrants were valid. On appeal, Appellant argued that the State failed to preserve exculpatory evidence in violation of his due process right to a fair trial, and that two search warrants failed to designate all of the items to be seized with adequate particularity, making the warrants unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) even if Appellant made the threshold showing that the evidence at issue was lost or destroyed, he did not demonstrate that any of the evidence had apparent exculpatory value at the time the items were returned to their owners; and (2) the search warrants identified the items to be seized with as much particularity as was possible under the circumstances. View "State v. Winchester" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part an order of the trial court suppressing evidence seized pursuant to a warrantless search of Defendant’s jacket and vehicle, holding that the search of Defendant’s jacket was a lawful search incident to arrest but that the search of Defendant’s vehicle was not supported by probable cause and was outside the scope of a vehicle search incident to arrest. The trial court concluded that the searches of Defendant’s jacket and vehicles and the seizure of the evidence was not supported by probable cause and violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The State appealed, arguing that the search of Defendant’s jacket was a lawful search incident to her arrest and that the evidence discovered in the jacket supported the subsequent search for the illegal drugs discovered in Defendant’s vehicle. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with respect to the search of Defendant’s jacket but vacated the suppression order as to the evidence found in the vehicle. View "State v. Pagnani" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Jerry Philogene’s motion to set aside a default and for relief from a judgment, holding that Philogene demonstrated excusable neglect. The default judgment in this case extinguished Philogene’s property rights to $16,545 in cash seized as part of a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, initiated following a motor vehicle stop and the filing of criminal charges connected with Philogene’s operation of the vehicle. After entry of the default judgment, Philogene filed a motion to set aside the default and for relief from the judgment. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Philogene’s assumption that his criminal attorney was representing him in the civil forfeiture matter did not constitute excusable neglect and that Philogene’s claim that he possessed the $16,545 in order to purchase a car for his sister did not constitute a meritorious defense. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Philogene showed a reasonable excuse for his inattention to the forfeiture proceedings; and (2) Philogene demonstrated a meritorious defense to the underlying charges. View "State v. Philogene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for four counts of gross sexual assault and other sex offenses, holding that none of Defendant’s assignments of error required reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal on eight of the eleven counts for which he was convicted because the State is not required to present specific evidence of separate and discrete incidents of abuse for the jury to convict a defendant of every charged offense, as long as the jury is instructed on specific unanimity; (2) Defendant was not unfairly prejudiced by the trial court’s admission into evidence of uncharged sexual abuse; and (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal as to previous unlawful sexual contact charges under the limitations period. View "State v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of ten charges, including two counts of intentional or knowing murder, holding that the trial court did not err by allowing the jury to consider certain identification testimony. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion in limine that sought to exclude the identification testimony because the out-of-court identification was produced by an impermissibly suggestive procedure, rendering the testimony unreliable. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the witness’s out-of-court identification was independently reliable, and therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the identification testimony. View "State v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for aggravated trafficking of scheduled drugs following his guilty plea, holding that the motion court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized by, and statements made to, police officers after he was arrested without a warrant. On appeal, Defendant argued that the police lacked sufficient probable cause to believe that he was engaged in criminal conduct to justify his warrantless arrest. Therefore, Defendant argued, the statements made and evidence seized after the arrest were subject to suppression. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) sufficient corroborated information warranted any prudent and cautious person to believe that Defendant was committing the offense of heroin trafficking; and (2) therefore, law enforcement officers properly made the warrantless arrest. View "State v. Journet" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for violating a public safety fire rule, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. Defendant was convicted of failing to comply with section 24.2.2.3.3 of the 2009 edition of the National Fire Protection Association 101: Life Safety Code, as incorporated by rule by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of conviction, holding (1) section 24.2.2.3.3 of the Life Safety Code is not void for vagueness; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the State’s failure to provide Defendant with a policy statement regarding the enforcement of section 24.2.2.3.3 did not constitute a Brady violation; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction. View "State v. Nisbet" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of twenty-eight counts of gross sexual assault, holding that the evidence was sufficient to convict Defendant of each count of gross sexual assault. Defendant was convicted by a jury for acts committed on the victim, his biological daughter. On appeal, Defendant argued that the State did not produce sufficient evidence from which the jury could have found that he committed each of the twenty-eight counts of gross sexual assault for which he was convicted. After noting that the focus of Defendant’s argument was that the State was required to produce evidence regarding the time and place of each individual incident of assault the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) time and place are not essential elements of gross sexual assault; and (2) the State proved each and every element of all twenty-eight counts of gross sexual assault. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a defendant who has conditions of release set by a judicial officer can be convicted of violation of a condition of release for acts committed while in jail after not securing release on bail. Defendant was convicted of twelve counts of violating a condition of release. On appeal, Defendant argued that the conditions of release order did not apply to him because he had failed to post bail and had not been released from jail to make the conditions of release applicable. Defendant further argued that he was not provided with adequate notice of the conditions of release or of the penalties for violating conditions of release while he remained incarcerated, as required by Me. Rev. Stat. 15 1026(5). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the conditions of release order, by law, was effective when entered at the initial appearance hearing; but (2) there was insufficient evidence that Defendant was provided with notice of the conditions of release applicable to him while he was in jail. View "State v. Leblanc-Simpson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of aggravated operating under the influence and aggravated assault, holding that the court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of his alcohol level determined from a sample of Defendant’s blood that was seized without a warrant. Specifically, the Court held (1) probable cause existed for a law enforcement officer to obtain a sample of Defendant’s blood in the context of an operating under the influence investigation, and (2) exigent circumstances justified the warrantless blood draw because Defendant was about to go into surgery where he would not be available for a blood draw as part of the State’s investigation and his body would further metabolize any alcohol that might be in his blood. View "State v. Palmer" on Justia Law