Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, for which Defendant received two concurrent forty-year sentences. On appeal, the Court held that the trial justice did not err by (1) refusing to the testimony of Natalie Kissoon, M.D. in its entirety for lack of foundation; (2) refusing to grant Defendant’s motion to pass the case after Dr. Kissoon testified that the victim’s disclosures were consistent with sexual abuse; and (3) denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence. View "State v. Rathbun" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant’s application for postconviction relief in which Defendant argued that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer was not licensed to practice law in Rhode Island. Defendant pled nolo contendere to two criminal offenses and admitted to violating his probationary sentence. In his postconviction relief application, Defendant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense counsel, who was not licensed to practice law in Rhode Island, was engaging in unlawful conduct. Defendant further argued that his defense counsel’s associate, who was licensed in Rhode Island and who appeared in court with Defendant, was a “straw man” and thus complicit in the scheme to practice law without a license. The superior court denied the application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly found that defense counsel’s associate, not defense counsel, represented Defendant with respect to his pleas; and (2) Defendant’s argument that defense counsel and the associate had a conflict of interest in representing Defendant lacked merit. View "Millette v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of robbery in the first degree and conspiracy after a jury trial. On appeal, Defendant requested a new trial on the grounds that the trial justice erred in admitting into evidence identification testimony and a photograph identification. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in admitting the contested identification testimony because the testimony was not impermissible hearsay; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in admitting a single photograph of Defendant into evidence because the use of a single photograph was not unduly suggestive and did not implicate Defendant’s right to due process. View "State v. Alves" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and one count of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice did not err in granting the State’s motion in limine and in admitting the testimony of three witnesses about alleged incidents of Defendant’s prior sexual misconduct under R.I. R. Evid. 404(b). On appeal, Defendant argued that the alleged prior sexual misconduct was too remote and dissimilar to the charged acts to be admissible. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the challenged testimony satisfied the “nonremote” and “similar” requirements of Rule 404(b) jurisprudence; (2) the evidence was relevant to the crime charged and reasonably necessary; (3) the risk of prejudice did not outweigh the probative value of the allegations of prior sexual misconduct; and (4) there was no error in the trial justice’s analysis under Rule 29(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss. View "State v. Perry" on Justia Law

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Contrary to the conclusions of the magistrate and the hearing justice, Defendant did not have a lifetime duty to register, but rather, his duty to register expired ten years from the expiration of his sentence for the offense of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, in accordance with R. I. Gen. Stat. 11-37.1-18 and 11.37.1-4(a). Further, Defendant’s three prior failure-to-notify convictions did not run afoul of the ex post facto clause. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss a 2012 charge for failing to notify law enforcement of a change in residence. The magistrate denied the motion, determining that Defendant had a lifetime duty to register. Defendant then filed an application for postconviction relief from his three prior failure-to-notify convictions in 2007, 2009, and 2010. A justice of the superior court denied relief, concluding that Defendant had a lifetime duty to register and that his three failure-no-notify convictions did not violate the ex post facto clause. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the part of the magistrate’s decision denying the motion to dismiss but reversed the magistrate’s ruling that Defendant had a lifetime duty to register as a sex offender; and (2) affirmed the judgment denying postconviction relief but reversed the hearing justice’s ruling that Defendant’s obligation to register was for the remainder of his life. View "State v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and one count of the sale or distribution of photographs of a minor suggesting that the minor engaged in, or is about to engage in, a sexual act. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine the complaining witness regarding her allegations against her biological father. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in precluding the admission of this evidence. View "State v. Danis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the superior court granting Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to a Massachusetts Department of Children and Families investigator on grounds that the investigator’s failure to advise Defendant of his right to counsel rendered the statements involuntary. Defendant was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of child molestation. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the hearing justice granting Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s statements were voluntary, and the motion to suppress should have been denied. View "State v. Gouin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner’s application for postconviction relief, in which Petitioner claimed that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Court held (1) Petitioner’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to utilize an expert witness on false confessions; (2) the trial justice did not clearly err in refusing to approve funding for the hiring of an expert witness on false confessions in this postconviction relief action; and (3) trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to file a motion to recuse the justice during the trial, and the trial justice did not err in not recusing himself from hearing the instant application for postconviction relief. View "Barros v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of second-degree murder, discharging a weapon while committing a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm, having previously been convicted of a felony. The Court held (1) the trial justice properly denied Defendant’s Watson claims as to two prospective jurors; (2) the trial justice did not improperly restrict the cross-examination of a witness about a firearm the witness saw two days before the homicide; (3) the trial justice did not err when she denied Defendant’s motion to pass the case after a spectator’s emotional outburst during the defense’s opening statement; and (4) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of second-degree murder, discharging a weapon while committing a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm, having previously been convicted of a felony. The Court held (1) the trial justice properly denied Defendant’s Watson claims as to two prospective jurors; (2) the trial justice did not improperly restrict the cross-examination of a witness about a firearm the witness saw two days before the homicide; (3) the trial justice did not err when she denied Defendant’s motion to pass the case after a spectator’s emotional outburst during the defense’s opening statement; and (4) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Porter" on Justia Law