Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal possession of methamphetamine and other drug offenses after law enforcement found drugs and paraphernalia in Defendant’s pickup truck during a traffic stop, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it curtailed Defendant’s cross-examination of Leslie Hill, the lone passenger in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Specifically, the Court held that the district court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence of Hill’s plea agreement with the State and prevented Defendant from fully cross-examining Hill about her plea agreement, and the error prejudiced Defendant and required a new trial. View "State v. Flowers" on Justia Law

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The district court erred when it denied the motion to quash filed by attorney Shannon Sweeney seeking to quash a subpoena compelling Sweeney to testify regarding communications she may have had with her client, Dakota McClanahan, on a bail jumping charge. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and ordered that the subpoena compelling Sweeney to testify on the state’s behalf be quashed, holding that the district court erred in denying the motion to quash the subpoena because, under Mont. Code Ann. 26-1-803(1), an attorney cannot be examined as to any advice given to her client. View "Sweeney v. Third Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part an order of the district court revoking Appellant’s suspended sentence and committing him to the Department of Corrections for ten years for commitment to an appropriate correctional facility or program. Appellant was convicted of murder in federal court and sentenced to life in federal prison. While on federal parole, Appellant committed the offense of robbery and was sentenced to a fifteen-year commitment to the Montana Department of Corrections. After discharging the unsuspended portion of his state sentence, Appellant was transferred to federal prison until he was released on federal parole and concurrent state probation. Appellant’s state sentence was subsequently revoked, and Appellant was resentenced to serve a ten-year commitment to the Department of Corrections for placement in an appropriate correctional facility or program. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court’s failure to specify that Appellant’s new sentence ran concurrently with any other sentence he was serving resulted in the imposition of an illegal sentence; (2) the district court erroneously failed to credit Appellant for time served in federal custody after he discharged on to state probation; and (3) Appellant waived his objection to the court’s failure to state the reason for not granting street time credit. View "State v. Youpee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress blood test results obtained by a search warrant because Defendant’s due process were not violated. Defendant moved to suppress blood tests obtained pursuant to a telephone search warrant, asserting a violation of due process by the officer’s failure to advise Defendant of his right to an independent blood draw. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, including that the advisory’s reading was impeded by Defendant, there was no fundamental unfairness, and the circumstances fell short of a denial of due process. View "State v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial based on the State withholding exculpatory or impeachment evidence and the district court’s trial ruling allowing the State to elicit testimony of a prior bad act. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err when it denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial based on his assertion that the State withheld evidence regarding the forensic pathologist’s expert testimony in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 88 (1963), because Defendant failed to prove a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different had the evidence been disclosed ; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the State to elicit testimony of a prior bad act by Defendant to rebut the assertion that he was justified in his use of deadly force. View "State v. Reinert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s request to exercise supervisory control over the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, in a criminal action following the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to substitute assigned Judge Gregory G. Pinski (substitution motion). Petitioner was charged with assault with a weapon. Petitioner’s arraignment was scheduled for January 4 but, after Petitioner did not appear, set Petitioner’s arrangement for January 25. Petitioner appeared at his arraignment and then filed the substitution motion on January 31. The district court denied the substitution motion as untimely because it was outside of the ten-day timeframe. Specifically, the court concluded that the arraignment occurred on January 4. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of supervisory control, holding (1) a defendant must be present at his scheduled arraignment, and if he fails to appear at the arraignment, that hearing cannot be defined as his actual arraignment; (2) instead, the arraignment is the subsequent hearing at which the defendant is formally called into open court to enter a plea answering a charge; and (3) Petitioner’s arraignment in this case occurred on January 25, and therefore, his January 31 substitution motion was timely. View "Collins v. Honorable Gregory G. Pinski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the district court’s denials of Defendant’s motion to suppress and motion in limine and the grant of the State’s motion in limine in this criminal case. Defendant was charged with aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), a felony, or, in the alternative, aggravated DUI per se, a felony. Defendant filed a motion to suppress field sobriety tests based on newly discovered evidence calling into question whether the arresting officer made accurate individualized reports of his traffic stops and whether he possessed sufficient particularized suspicion to investigate Defendant for DUI in this case. Defendant also filed a motion in limine requesting exclusion of his prior DUI convictions. The district court denied both motions. The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) abused its discretion by granting the State’s motion in limine and preventing Defendant from challenging the arresting officer’s credibility in front of the jury; and (3) erred when it denied Defendant’s motion in limine and allowed the evidence of his prior DUI convictions to establish the offense of aggravated DUI. View "State v. Zimmerman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide, holding that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument that prejudiced Defendant’s right to a fair trial and warranted plain error review. A jury convicted Defendant of deliberate homicide. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument. Because Defendant did not object to the statements, he sought plain error review. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not demonstrate that failure to review the asserted errors would result in a miscarriage of justice, raise a question about the fundamental fairness of the proceedings, or compromise the integrity of the judicial process. View "State v. Lau" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for assault with a weapon, two counts of partner or family member assault, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by granting the State’s motion to join the first and second cases for trial, after a mistrial in the first case; (2) did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the probative value of letters letters Defendant wrote to the victim from jail was not substantially outweighed by any prejudice to Defendant and by admitting the letters into evidence; and (3) did not act arbitrarily or exceed the bounds of reason by denying Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. View "State v. Ankeny" on Justia Law

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The justice court did not err in concluding that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at his jury confirmation hearing. Defendant was found guilty by the justice court of driving while under the influence of alcohol and obstructing a peace officer. On appeal, Defendant argued that the justice court erred in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at the jury confirmation hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the justice court did not err in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial by failing to attend his jury confirmation hearing. View "State v. Sherlock" on Justia Law