Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree child molestation and one count of second-degree child molestation. The court held (1) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion by failing to exclude certain testimony as a result of the State’s violation of Rule 16 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure; (2) the trial judge did not err by admitting the testimony at issue pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence; (3) even if the testimony was admissible under Rule 404(b), the trial judge did not err in admitting the testimony under Rule 403 of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence; (4) the trial judge did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in analyzing Defendant’s motion for new trial; and (5) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal. View "State v. Rainey" on Justia Law

by
Collateral estoppel is not applicable to issues determined in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal when the issues are “only a small part of a larger, ongoing criminal investigation.” Defendant in this case was cited in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal with the civil violation of reasonable and prudent speeds. Defendant was also charged criminally in Superior Court with driving under the influence, serious bodily injury resulting and reckless driving. Defendant sought to dismiss his criminal charges, arguing that the Traffic Tribunal magistrate determined that he was not operating the vehicle, and therefore, the issue could not be relitigated based on collateral estoppel. The Superior Court magistrate granted the motion to dismiss. A Superior Court justice reversed the dismissal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that in matters that are only a small part of a larger, ongoing criminal investigation, the Traffic Tribunal’s process is insufficient to estop a later criminal proceeding. View "State v. Minior" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court adjudging Defendant to have violated the terms and conditions of his probation and executing eighteen years of a twenty-year suspended sentence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the hearing justice “went far beyond the scope of the probation violated hearing in deciding that [Defendant] had committed first degree sexual assault by a fair preponderance of the evidence.” The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in finding that Defendant had violated the terms and conditions of his probation. View "State v. Simpson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding that Defendant violated the terms and conditions of his probation and ordering him to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) six of the seven years of his previously suspended sentence. Defendant appealed, arguing that the hearing justice acted arbitrarily and capriciously in adjudicating him to be a probation violator because the record in this case did not substantiate the finding that he failed to keep the peace or remain on good behavior when he made certain statements in the course of telephone calls from prison, where he had been detained. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the hearing justice’s decision adjudging Defendant to be a probation violator was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "State v. Mosley" on Justia Law

by
From this point forward, Shatney v. State, 755 A.2d 130 (R.I. 2000), shall be deemed abrogated and inapplicable in any case involving both an initial application for postconviction relief and an applicant who has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed. This appeal concerned Appellant’s second amended application for postconviction relief. The hearing justice dismissed Appellant’s application after a hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) Shatney and Tassone v. State, 42 A.3d 1277 (R.I. 2012) are inconsistent with each other and may not properly be permitted to coexist as it relates to life without parole cases; and (2) Appellant was not provided with the evidentiary hearing to which he was entitled pursuant to Tassone. View "Motyka v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the hearing justice’s denial of Appellant’s application for postconviction relief seeking leave to withdraw his guilty pleas to breaking and entering and larceny charges. The breaking and entering and larceny pleas were entered in 1994, and Appellant had since served his entire sentence with respect to those cases. The Supreme Court concluded that the relief Appellant sought was the vacating of his 2008 guilty plea to second-degree murder and the dismissal of his 2004 murder indictment. The Supreme Court held (1) the 2004 murder charge and Appellant’s eventual guilty plea were not properly before the court; and (2) Appellant’s contention of ineffective assistance of counsel was not properly before the court. View "Burke v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial and her request to proceed pro se. Defendant was found guilty of one count of simple assault following a jury trial. After Defendant’s motion for a new trial was denied, Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction, and therefore, the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the trial justice did not err in concluding that Defendant had not made the “requisite intelligent and knowing decision to discharge counsel” and in therefore denying Defendant’s request to discharge her attorneys. View "State v. Withers" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding that Defendant violated the terms of his probation, sentencing him to serve sixteen years in prison, and denying Defendant’s motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Court held (1) the hearing justice did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding a witness to be a credible witness at the probation-violation hearing; (2) the hearing justice did not err in finding that Defendant did not keep the peace or act with good behavior and in thus denying Defendant’s motion for reconsideration; and (3) the hearing justice did not abuse his discretion in executing the remaining sixteen years of Defendant’s suspended sentence. View "Neufville v. State" on Justia Law

by
In this criminal case in which Defendant was convicted of several crimes, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal on the count of conspiracy to commit the crime of breaking and entering and refusing to grant a new trial on the breaking and entering a dwelling without consent charge. The court held (1) Defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the crime of conspiracy was properly denied because abundant and direct evidence was introduced from which a fact-finder could find that Defendant agreed to enter the dwelling; and (2) Defendant did not properly raise his argument before the trial justice regarding the breaking and entering charge, and therefore, this issue was waived. View "State v. Huntley" on Justia Law

by
A passenger in a moving vehicle who forcibly seizes the steering wheel has exercised sufficient control of the vehicle to be deemed a “driver” or “operator” under the reach of chapter 27 of title 31, and therefore, the terms “operating” or “driving” under R.I. Gen. Laws 31-27-1.2, 31-27-2.6 and 31-11-18 can encompass a passenger in a moving motor vehicle who seizes the wheel from the driver and steers the vehicle. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting a motion to dismiss several counts set forth in a criminal information against Defendant for lack of probable cause pursuant to Rule 9.1 of the superior court rules of criminal procedure. Specifically, the trial justice declared that Defendant could not have violated the statutes at issue because Defendant - a back-seat passenger - was not operating or driving the motor vehicle when he grabbed the steering wheel and turned it, causing the vehicle to roll over. The Supreme Court held (1) by steering the direction of a moving vehicle, Defendant placed himself in the realm of the vehicle’s operator; and (2) this conduct can support a prosecution for violating sections 31-27-1.2, 31-27-2.6 and 31-11-18. View "State v. Peters" on Justia Law