Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order to enforce payment of restitution entered by the superior court following a hearing on a motion to enforce payment of a restitution obligation originally imposed as part of a sentence, holding that the motion court erred in imposing the burden on Defendant to prove the current balance of the court-ordered restitution for the victim’s uncompensated losses. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the State never met the burden assigned to it in State v. Nelson, 994 A.2d 808 (Me. 2010), and State v. Berube, 698 A.2d 509 (Me. 1997), to determine the amount of the victim’s loss, payments credited to cover that loss, an thus the remaining sum that Defendant should have been obligated to pay in restitution. Because the State did not meet its burden to establish the amount still owed when it filed its motion to enforce the restitution obligation, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded for a new hearing on the enforcement of the restitution obligation with the State having the burden to prove the restitution obligation remaining. View "State v. Gagne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of operating under the influence (OUI) with a refusal to submit to a chemical test, holding that the jury instructions given in this case were not confusing to the jury. Here, the State presented two alternative theories of guilt - principal liability and accomplice liability. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a new trial because the jury instructions on a driver’s duty to submit to a chemical test and on accomplice liability confused the jury and did not provide a roadmap for the jury to be able to return a not guilty verdict. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed after clarifying and distinguishing the two alternate theories, holding (1) the jury instructions were clear that the refusal instruction was inapplicable to the charge of accomplice liability in an OUI case; and (2) there was no prejudice to Defendant that resulted in an unfair trial. View "State v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of intentional or knowing murder and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, holding that the court did not err in the way it conducted voir dire and that the admission into evidence of two burglary convictions pursuant to Me. R. Evid. 609 was not an abuse of the court’s discretion. Specifically, the Court held that the trial court (1) did not abuse its discretion by not including in the juror vote dire questionnaire six of Defendant’s proposed juror questions and by not giving the prospective jurors the option of answering any of the questions with “not sure” as an alternative to “yes” or “no”; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of two prior burglary convictions to impeach Defendant’s trial testimony. View "State v. Burton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and furnishing liquor to a minor, holding that the court did not err in determining that Appellant was competent to stand trial. Appellant entered conditional guilty pleas to all three charges. On appeal, Appellant argued primarily that the court erred when it determined that he was competent to stand trial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the party seeking the determination of incompetence must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is incompetent to proceed; and (2) the trial court in this case correctly allocated the burden of proof, applied the appropriate evidentiary standard, and did not err in finding Appellant competent to stand trial. View "State v. Gerrier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of operating under the influence (OUI) with one prior OUI offense, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion during the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant argued that the court abused its discretion when it ordered that the State would be permitted to use a challenged video recording to impeach Defendant if he testified and contradicted what the video showed, despite the court’s order sanctioning the State by excluding the recording from the State’s case-in-chief. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the State’s failure to provide Defendant with the recording it intended to offer in evidence within seven days after his plea of not guilty constituted a violation of M.R.U. Crim. P. 16(a)(2)(C); but (2) the court acted within its discretion in declining to exclude the video altogether, and the sanction did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial. View "State v. Matatall" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether evidence of the factual circumstances underpinning Defendant’s prior manslaughter conviction was admissible to establish an enhancing factor necessary to convict Defendant of the Class B offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants (OUI). Defendant was indicted for aggravated criminal OUI. The indictment alleged that the enhancing factor was Defendant’s 1991 manslaughter conviction that involved the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the unified criminal docket granting Defendant’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of his alleged intoxication at the time he committed his manslaughter offense. The Court held that the trial court erred when it ruled that the State’s proof regarding Defendant’s prior conviction was limited to the face of the prior indictment and judgment and commitment, which did not establish that Defendant was operating while under the influence at the time of the homicide. The Court then vacated the order granting the motion in limine and remanded for entry of an order denying the motion. View "State v. Hastey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s judgment of conviction for operating under the influence (Class D), holding that the motion court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of Defendant’s blood-alcohol level obtained following two warrantless blood draws. On appeal, Defendant argued that the motion court erred in finding that exigent circumstances justified two warrantless blood draws and thus denying his motion to suppress evidence of his blood-alcohol level obtained from the second blood draw. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the evidence supported the motion court’s finding that there were exigent circumstances that negated the warrant requirement for both blood draws. View "State v. Martin" on Justia Law

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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