Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree assault and armed criminal action, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to submit a self-defense instruction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred by refusing to submit a self-defense instruction. In response, the State argued that Defendant was not entitled to a self-defense instruction because Defendant denied stabbing the victim. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State, holding (1) the only relevant inquiry when a defendant requests an instruction on a theory of defense is whether, after viewing all the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the theory propounded by the defendant, there was substantial evidence to support the requested instruction; and (2) the circuit court erred in failing to give a self-defense instruction because there was substantial evidence to support the submission of such an instruction. View "State v. Barnett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding Defendant guilty of the first-degree murder of a ten-year-old girl and sentencing him to death, holding that none of Defendant's assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by (1) overruling Defendant's objection to the admission of photographs from the victim's cellphone; (2) admitting gun evidence found in Defendant's home; (3) admitting the contents of a folder containing photos of Defendant's female, middle school students and accounts of fictional sexual encounters with thirteen-year-old girls; (4) admitting victim impact evidence; (5) permitting the State to argue during closing argument that the jury could speak for the victim and her family by sentencing Defendant to death; and (6) sustaining the State's motion to strike a venire person for cause during the death qualification voir dire. Further, Defendant's constitutional arguments were unavailing, and Defendant's death sentence met all the statutory requirements. View "State v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court accepting Defendant's guilty plea to first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and armed criminal action and sentencing him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that Defendant's counsel was effective and that Defendant's plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. After the circuit court imposed the sentence Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief alleging, among other things, that his counsel was ineffective, and therefore, his plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was not coerced into accepting the State's plea agreement; (2) Defendant was competent to plead guilty; and (3) counsel was not ineffective for declining to seek a second competency examination. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued a permanent writ of mandamus ordering the circuit court to reinstate Gary Sampson's previous probationary term, holding that the circuit court erred in placing Sampson on a third term of probation. In his writ of mandamus seeking his immediate discharge from probation Sampson argued that the circuit court lost authority by placing him on a third term of probation and therefore erred by overruling his motion to be discharged from probation and setting the matter for a probation violation hearing. The Supreme Court agreed that the circuit court erred by placing Sampson on a third term of probation but, because it was unclear whether the circuit court had authority to conduct a probation violation hearing or whether Sampson's probation expired statutorily, the circuit court was required to enter an order continuing Sampson's valid second term of probation. View "State ex rel. Sampson v. Honorable William E. Hickle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court exercised its discretion not to dismiss this appeal as moot and held that the circuit court erred in placing Trevor Griffith, who had already been discharged from parole, on a third term of probation. Griffith filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking an immediate release from custody and to be discharged from probation. Specifically, Griffith argued that the circuit court exceeded its authority after revoking and terminating his second term of probation and executing his sentence. After this case was submitted, Griffith was released from his incarceration and discharged from parole. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court erred in placing Griffith on a third term of probation; (2) when a circuit court places a defendant on an erroneous third term of probation, the case should be remanded to determine the proper course of the defendant's sentence; and (3) because Griffith had been released and discharged, he should not be returned to custody to make this determination. View "State ex rel. Griffith v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the revocation of Appellant's driving privileges for refusing to submit to a chemical test, holding that Appellant's refusal to consent to the chemical test was not voluntary and unequivocal under Mo. Rev. Stat. 577.041. The circuit court sustained the decision of the director of revenue revoking Appellant's driving privileges for one year. On appeal, Appellant argued that his refusal to consent to the chemical test was not voluntary and unequivocal because law enforcement deprived him of his statutory right to counsel by listening to and making recordings of his part of the conversation with his attorney. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining the revocation of Appellant's driving privileges because law enforcement deprived Appellant of his right to confer privately with his attorney, and the director failed to show that Appellant was not prejudiced. View "Roesing v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent its preliminary writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from holding a probation revocation hearing and ordered the circuit court to discharge Travis Jones from probation, holding that Jones's term of probation had expired, and therefore, the circuit court lost the power to revoke his probation. As grounds for the writ, Jones argued that the circuit court failed to make every reasonable effort to hold his probation revocation hearing prior to the expiration of his term of probation and lost authority to do anything other than order his discharge from probation. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Court lost the power to revoke Jones's probation because it failed to make every reasonable effort to bring Jones before the court before the term of probation expired. View "State ex rel. Jones v. Honorable Eric Eighmy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court from ordering Relator to submit to a mental evaluation pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. chapter 552, holding that chapter 552 did not authorize the circuit court to order the department of mental health to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Relator. Relator was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree burglary, and other offenses. Relator asserted that he was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The State sought an order for a mental evaluation pursuant to chapter 552. The circuit court granted the motion. Relator then petitioned the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition, and the court of appeals granted the writ. The Supreme Court granted transfer and made permanent a writ of probation, holding that the circuit court exceeded its authority by ordering Relator to undergo a mental evaluation pursuant to chapter 552 when Relator intended to rely only on the diminished capacity defense because the circuit court lacked reasonable cause to question his competence to stand trial. View "Caruthers v. Honorable Wendy Wexler-Horn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant's Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, holding that Appellant's claims of error were unavailing. After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the death of a Missouri highway patrolman. The jury was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The circuit court subsequently conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Thereafter, Appellant filed his Rule 29.15 motion. The motion court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that counsel were not ineffective in failing to question Juror 58 during voir dire about the provocative and violent novel he admitted writing and in failing to call other jurors in support of Appellant's motion for new trial. View "Shockley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case resulting in Defendant's convictions of first- and second-degree murder and sentence of death for the first-degree murder and life imprisonment for the second-degree murder, holding that Defendant's second-degree murder conviction must be reversed and that the judgment on the first-degree murder must be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court erred when it refused to submit Defendant's proposed jury instructions for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that Defendant acted out of sudden passion arising from adequate cause; (2) the circuit court erred in admitting statements made in violation of Defendant's Miranda rights, but the error was harmless; (3) the circuit court violated Defendant's right to due process by admitting evidence of his post-Miranda silence, but those violations were harmless; and (4) the circuit court erred when it overruled Defendant's objection to the State's penalty phase closing argument in which the State made an impermissible reference to Defendant's decision not to testify, and this error required the judgment on the first-degree murder to be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. View "State v. Rice" on Justia Law