Articles Posted in Missouri Supreme Court

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Appellant pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree statutory sodomy. Appellant subsequently filed a Mo. R. Crim. P. 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief. The motion court appointed post-conviction counsel to represent Appellant in the proceeding. Appointed counsel then filed a motion requesting that the appointment of counsel be rescinded on the basis that Appellant’s Rule 24.035 motion was untimely. Without holding an independent inquiry, the motion court rescinded its previous order appointing counsel and dismissed the case with prejudice, finding that the motion was not timely filed. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to reopen his post-conviction proceedings, claiming that he was abandoned by his appointed counsel when his counsel failed to investigate the timeliness of his post-conviction motion before filing the motion to rescind appointment of counsel. The motion court overruled Appellant’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the motion court clearly erred in dismissing Appellant’s motion because the record raised the presumption that Appellant was abandoned by his post-conviction counsel. View "Vogl v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder. Defendant was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress certain statements he made and physical evidence and admitting them at trial; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion or make inconsistent rulings in the admissibility of evidence at the suppression hearing; (3) the evidence amply supported a first-degree murder conviction; (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Defendant’s objections and admitting during trial several pieces of evidence and several crime scene and autopsy photographs; (5) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing arguments; and (6) Defendant’s death sentence was proportional to the crime. View "State v. Collings" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of one count of child molestation and sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment. Appellant’s conviction was affirmed on appeal. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief, setting forth ten allegations of error. After an evidentiary hearing, the motion court denied post-conviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to establish that his trial counsel and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to challenge the molestation verdict directors, as Appellant’s claims of error were either waived or without merit. View "Mallow v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree. On appeal, Appellant argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him because the victim’s testimony was contradictory and lacked corroboration. Appellant’s argument was based on the “corroboration rule” and the “destructive contradictions” doctrine. The Supreme Court abolished the corroboration rule and the destructive contradictions doctrine because both require appellate courts to engage in credibility determinations that are properly left to judges and juries sitting as triers of fact. The Court then affirmed the judgment of conviction, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that Appellant committed statutory sodomy. View "State v. Porter" on Justia Law

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John C. Middleton, an inmate under a sentence of death, was scheduled to be executed on July 16, 2014. After Middleton’s execution was scheduled to occur, Middleton field a petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserting that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment because he was incompetent to be executed. The Supreme Court denied Middleton’s habeas petition on the merits because Middleton failed to make a substantial threshold showing that he lacked the competence to be executed and therefore was not entitled to a full hearing to determine his competence. View "Middleton v. Russell" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with second-degree trafficking and resisting arrest. Defendant’s first trial ended in a mistrial. After a retrial, Defendant was found guilty of the charges. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court lacked the authority to retry him after the end of the court term following the term in which his earlier trial ended in a mistrial. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for resisting arrest and vacated Defendant’s conviction for second-degree trafficking, holding (1) the trial court had the authority to retry Defendant after the deadline had passed because Defendant failed to assert that deadline when it was still possible for the trial court to comply; (2) the trial court erred in not giving Defendant’s requested instruction regarding possession as a lesser included offense of second-degree trafficking; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for resisting arrest. View "State v. Pierce" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing his request to instruct the jury on the lesser included crime of second-degree robbery. The trial court reasoned that a lesser included offense instruction was not required because there was no basis in the evidence for a reasonable juror to determine that the victim did not reasonably believe that Defendant was holding a gun to her back during the robbery. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s judgment of conviction as to both counts, holding (1) a trial court cannot refuse a defendant’s request for a “nested” lesser offense instruction based solely on its view of what evidence a reasonable juror must believe or what inferences a reasonable juror must draw, as the jury’s right to disbelieve the evidence and its right to refuse to draw needed inferences is a sufficient basis for a jury to conclude that the state has failed to prove the differential element; and (2) in this case, there was a basis in the evidence for the jury to find that the victim did not reasonably believe Defendant held a gun on her. Remanded. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Two police officers were patrolling a high-crime area when they passed Defendant, who was riding a bicycle, and observed what appeared to be a handgun protruding from Defendant’s waistband. The officers handcuffed Defendant and then discovered that what appeared to be a gun was an Airsoft toy gun. At that point, the officers called in a warrant check and learned there was a pickup order for Defendant. A subsequent search revealed Defendant was carrying cocaine base. Defendant was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the trial court overruled. Defendant appealed, arguing that, although the police had reasonable suspicion to initially stop him when they saw him carrying what appeared to be a gun, they lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him further while they performed a warrant check after they discovered the gun was a toy gun. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not clearly err in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress because even after the officers learned the gun was not real, the additional circumstances surrounding the encounter gave them reasonable suspicion to continue to detain Defendant. View "State v. Lovelady" on Justia Law

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After five jury trials, Appellant was eventually convicted of the 1991 murder of Gladys Kuehler and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence. Appellant timely filed a motion for post-conviction relief, raising thirteen points on appeal. The circuit court made findings of fact and entered a judgment overruling Appellant’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s trial counsel rendered constitutionally effective assistance; (2) Appellant’s due process rights recognized under Brady v. Maryland were not violated; and (3) Appellant’s claim that the delay between his sentencing and execution violated his due process rights lacked merit. View "Barton v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant was charged with fourteen offenses, including one count of forcible rape, one count of aggravated stalking, and five counts of violating a protective order. Appellant was convicted of all counts and sentenced to a fifty-year term of imprisonment for forcible rape under Mo. Rev. Stat. 566.030.2. The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) Appellant’s sentence for forcible rape did not exceed the maximum sentence for that offense where section 566.030.2 authorizes a range of punishment from five years to life imprisonment; and (2) Appellant’s convictions for aggravated stalking and violating a protective did not violate double jeopardy. View "State v. Hardin" on Justia Law