Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his hotel room pursuant to a search warrant, holding that the officer who previously detained Defendant's vehicle and gathered information eventually contained in the search warrant affidavit did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Defendant's vehicle and that all evidence obtained after the stop must be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Defendant was stopped because the officer observed a brake light emit a white light. A consent search of the vehicle did not produce evidence of unlawful drugs, but the officer later found a foil ball in the vehicle, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Thereafter, police officers seized evidence from Defendant's hotel room pursuant to a search warrant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because it had two properly working brake lights. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Defendant's vehicle; and (2) once the information derived from the unlawful traffic stop was excluded from the search warrant affidavit, it lacked a substantial basis upon which probable cause could be found. View "State v. Tenold" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment denying Appellant's second application for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Defendant did not meet his burden to show deficient performance and prejudice on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims and that Appellant's remaining claims were not reviewable or meritorious habeas claims. In his habeas corpus application, Appellant claimed that his original guilty pleas were not made voluntarily and intelligently, that the court upon his resentencing abused its discretion when it denied his motion to introduce evidence of the State's alleged inconsistent previous arguments, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his initial change of plea hearing and at his jury resentencing. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant cannot challenge his guilty plea or alleged inconsistent arguments on the merits under the procedural framework of a habeas action; and (2) Appellant did not meet the Strickland standard to establish ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Piper v. Young" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the habeas court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden to prove his trial counsel was ineffective when it made the strategic decision not to employ or consult experts. Appellant was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife and received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Appellant later sought a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he did not engage any expert witnesses to evaluate certain evidence. The circuit court denied the habeas petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where defense counsel's decisions were reasonable to advance Defendant's defense theory and where Defendant could not satisfy Strickland's prejudice requirement, the habeas court did not err when it denied Appellant's habeas petition. View "Reay v. Young" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for second-degree rape and simple assault, holding that the circuit court erred when it admitted a narrative report prepared by an emergency room nurse summarizing the victim's oral statements made during a sexual assault examination, but the error was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial and in admitting the sexual assault examination note. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a mistrial; and (2) the circuit court erred in admitting the victim's statements describing her assailant and what occurred and what was said after the attack, but the error was harmless because Defendant failed to demonstrate that the error, in all probability, produced some effect upon the final result of the trial. View "State v. Packard" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree rape of a child under age thirteen, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting statements from an unavailable witness, but the error was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge's order admitting, as other acts evidence, statements from an unavailable witness violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statements at issue were testimonial and of a constitutional magnitude; (2) the circuit court's decision to admit the statements violated Defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation; but (3) the affect of the circuit court's error in admitting the statements at trial was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Richmond" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the State's motion to dismiss Appellant's civil action challenging a Department of Corrections (DOC) administrative policy relating to the method and procedures for carrying out capital sentences, holding that provisions of S.D. Codified Laws chapter 23A-27A, rather than the DOC policy, vest members of the executive branch with the authority to carry out a capital sentence. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Appellant later brought his civil action claiming that a written policy issued by the DOC relating to the execution of a condemned inmate was invalid because it was not promulgated within the rule-making requirements of the state's Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The circuit court dismissed the complaint, determining that the Policy was not subject to the APA and that the authority of the DOC to carry out a death sentence was derived from S.D. Codified Laws 23A-27A-32, whose provisions were self-executing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DOC policy was not subject to the APA's rule-making requirements. View "Rhines v. S.D. Department Of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and other offenses, holding that the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant's motions to suppress and did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's proposed jury instructions on lesser-included offenses. Prior to trial, Defendant filed three motions to suppress his statements to law enforcement and also moved to suppress evidence derivative of his arrest on the basis that the officer engaged in racial profiling as the basis for the traffic stop. The circuit court denied the motions to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motions to suppress; and (2) did not err in refusing to give Defendant's proposed lesser included offense instructions. View "State v. Willingham" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied Defendant's motion for a certificate of probable cause to appeal the denial of habeas corpus relief from his kidnapping convictions, holding that Defendant's habeas claims were "clearly procedurally defaulted." Defendant's criminal judgment was final more than two years before the effective date of S.D. Codified Laws 21-27-3.3, the statute of limitations enacted in 2012, cutting off Defendant's ability to commence his habeas action. While the decision in Hughbanks v. Dooley, 887 N.W.2d 319 (S.D. 2016), gave Defendant until July 1, 2014 to commence his action Defendant did not commence it until January 2015. Defendant argued before the Supreme Court that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until he was appointed counsel who could recognize the "factual predicate[s]" for his habeas claims. The Supreme Court held (1) the timeframe from which section 21-27-3.3(4) begins to run is when the facts, rather than the legal basis, giving rise to potential claims are either known or could have been discovered with due diligence; and (2) Defendant knew the evidentiary facts supporting his claims at the time his judgment was entered in 2007, and therefore, his habeas claims remained "clearly procedurally defaulted" under the statute. View "Asmussen v. Young" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the magistrate court that Defendant's motion to suppress should be granted in accordance with an earlier order of the circuit court, holding that Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated, and therefore, Defendant's motion to suppress should have been denied. Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence as a result of his encounter with a police officer, arguing that he was not detained based on reasonable suspicion, and therefore, the stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment of the federal constitution and Article VI of the state constitution. The magistrate court denied the motion to suppress and entered a judgment of conviction. The circuit court reversed and ordered that Defendant's motion to suppress should be granted. The magistrate court then entered its order acting in accordance with the circuit court's order and granted Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal; and (2) the officer developed a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before seizing Defendant, and therefore the evidence from the stop should not have been suppressed. View "State v. Sharpfish" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for theft by exploitation in an amount exceeding $5,000, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court (1) did not violate Defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment by finding Defendant's waiver of his right to counsel was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent; (2) did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal; (3) did not err in ordering Defendant to pay $31,743.82 in restitution; and (4) did not impose a sentence that violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. View "State v. Hauge" on Justia Law