Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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In May 2021, the State filed a complaint charging Madison Dearinger with hindering law enforcement, a class C felony, and false information to law enforcement, a misdemeanor. Under the felony count, the State alleged Dearinger provided false information to a law enforcement officer before and after her father, Adam Dearinger, committed burglary. At the preliminary hearing, Dearinger moved to dismiss the felony charge of hindering law enforcement arguing she did not commit a felony because she did not know Adam Dearinger committed burglary at the time she lied to law enforcement. The district court found Dearinger knew of conduct constituting assault and violation of a protection order, but did not analyze whether she knew of conduct constituting burglary. The court determined the State failed to provide evidence for the felony enhancement and dismissed the hindering law enforcement charge. The State argued the evidence presented was sufficient to support a finding of probable cause for the felony charge of hindering law enforcement under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-08-03. To this the North Dakota Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s judgment. View "North Dakota v. Dearinger" on Justia Law

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Ephrium Thomas appealed after a jury found him guilty of robbery and terrorizing a child victim. Thomas argued the district court erred in admitting evidence of a statement made by him to law enforcement. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in admitting evidence of the statement. View "North Dakota v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Robert Pulkrabek was convicted by jury in April 2017 on terrorizing and disorderly conduct. He was sentenced in November 2021. Pulkrabek argued a variety of events before and during the trial were structural errors in violation of the constitutional requirement for a public trial. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred, finding that "Because 'one structural error is sufficient to require reversal,' resolution of the remaining issues raised on appeal are unnecessary to our decision." The judgment of conviction was reversed and the case was remanded to the district court for a new trial. View "North Dakota v. Pulkrabek" on Justia Law

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The State appealed an order granting Corey Wickham’s postconviction relief application. Wickham was found guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition. Wickham filed an application for postconviction relief, arguing that his conviction was obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to object to a State witness’s comment on Wickham’s invocation of his right to counsel. Because the district judge who presided over Wickham’s trial had retired, an evidentiary hearing on his postconviction application was held in front of a different judge. Testimony was heard from Wickham’s trial counsel at the hearing. The court found that Wickham satisfied the “Strickland” test and granted Wickham’s application for relief. The State argued the district court did not properly apply the Strickland test and its findings regarding ineffective assistance of counsel were clearly erroneous. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that because the court failed to consider the list of non-exclusive factors outlined in North Dakota v. Wilder (2018 ND 93) in determining the prejudicial effect of trial counsel’s error, the Supreme Court concluded that the postconviction court erred in its application of the law under prong two of the Strickland test. The order granting relief was reversed. View "Wickham v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Duane Landrus, Jr. appealed his conviction by jury for aggravated assault on a correctional officer. In March 2019, Landrus was instructed to go to the behavior intervention unit while in custody at the state penitentiary. Landrus refused to leave his cell and a team was called to remove him. A sergeant at the penitentiary testified that Landrus choked him after he entered Landrus’ cell. Trial took place in June 2021. The district court provided jury instructions listing the essential elements of aggravated assault under the originally-charged subdivision, N.D.C.C. 12.1-17-02(1)(c). Neither Landrus nor the State objected. The jury returned a conviction. Landrus conceded the issues raised on appeal were not argued to the district court, so the appropriate standard of review was obvious error in instructing the jury on the elements of the originally-charged subdivision of N.D.C.C. 12.1-17-02. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court agreed: “the failure to correct this error would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of criminal proceedings. We reverse and remand for a new trial using jury instructions consistent with the crime charged.” View "North Dakota v. Landrus" on Justia Law

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Terri Yellow Hammer appealed an amended criminal judgment awarding restitution in the amount of $193,885.59. Yellow Hammer pled guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular injury arising out of a crash with another vehicle. Conan Magilke died at the scene, and Angela Magilke sustained significant injuries. On appeal, Yellow Hammer argued the district court erred in ordering restitution for future medical expenses in the amount of $95,000. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Yellow Hammer" on Justia Law

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Perry Oshiro II appealed a district court order denying his motion to correct his sentence. On appeal, Oshiro argue the court illegally sentenced him because the court did not give him credit for all the days he previously had served. Because Oshiro was released from prison while this appeal was pending, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot. View "North Dakota v. Oshiro" on Justia Law

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The State appealed the dismissal of a criminal child neglect case against Antoinette Rodriguez. The State argued Rodriguez had sufficient notice of the charge against her, and the district court erred when it dismissed the amended information against Rodriguez. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the amended information. View "North Dakota v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Randy Houle was convicted by jury of aggravated assault and false information to law enforcement. On appeal, Houle argued the district court erred in improperly instructing the jury regarding circumstantial evidence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Houle" on Justia Law

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Dean Benter was convicted by jury on six counts of possession of certain materials prohibited. Benter argued he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his right to counsel, and contended the district court failed to question him during trial to determine whether or not he was competent to present his own defense. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Benter’s convictions. View "North Dakota v. Benter" on Justia Law