Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles affirming the South Dakota Department of Correction's (Department) calculations of Appellant's parole eligibility for his two sentences under the parole grid in S.D. Codified Laws 24-15A-32, holding that the Department correctly calculated Appellant's parole eligibility. Appellant was sentenced to penitentiary terms for aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. Before the Supreme Court, Appellant argued that the Department misapplied the parole grid by using one or more of his prior non-violent felony convictions to increase his time until parole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Department properly applied the parole grid. View "Reck v. South Dakota Board of Pardons & Paroles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences for grand theft by deception and other offenses stemming from Defendant's excessive billing of Don Martin for mechanic work done to Martin's pickup, holding that the circuit court did not err in admitting certain evidence or in denying Defendant's post-trial motion to set aside his guilty verdicts. Specifically, the Court held (1) even if the circuit court erred by admitting certain statements made by Martin, now deceased, to a state investigator, the admission of those statements was harmless error; (2) that the circuit court did not err by admitting Defendant's bank records; and (3) that the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to set aside his guilty verdicts. View "State v. Podzimek" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of four counts of rape in the fourth degree, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of solicitation of a minor, and a misdemeanor count of enticing a child away, holding that Defendant's sentences did not violate double jeopardy protections and that the State did not commit prosecutorial misconduct. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) his sentences for sexual exploitation of a minor and solicitation of a minor violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment because those convictions arose from the same conduct as the rape convictions; and (2) in asking about similarities between Defendant's step-daughter and the victim during cross-examination the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) any error in conviction and sentence for solicitation and sexual exploitation of a minor was not plain; and (2) Defendant did not show that the State's improper cross-examination affected his substantial rights. View "State v. McMillen" on Justia Law