Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief, holding that Defendant was entitled to a Machner hearing regarding one of his postconviction claims.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of homicide. In his postconviction motion, Defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contact two potential alibi witnesses or call them at trial. The circuit court denied the postconviction motion without holding a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case to the circuit court with instructions to grant Defendant a hearing on his claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or call two alibi witnesses, holding that Defendant's motion alleged sufficient facts that, if true, would entitle him to relief and that the record failed conclusively to establish that Defendant was not entitled to relief. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Dunn County on Plaintiff's claim filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that Plaintiff's section 1983 claim against Dunn County failed.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that she presented evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Dunn County violated her rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when a correctional officer sexually assaulted her. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), no reasonable fact finder could conclude that Dunn County was the causal, moving force behind the sexual assault; and (2) there was insufficient evidence demonstrating that Dunn County acted with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious consequence that the correctional officer would sexually assault Plaintiff. View "Slabey v. Dunn County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree child sexual assault and denying his motion for postconviction relief, holding that the circuit court did not err.On appeal from the denial of Defendant's motion for postconviction relief, the court of appeals concluded that the State suppressed evidence favorable to Defendant's defense, in violation of his right to due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State did not violate Defendant's due process rights by filing to disclose a certain report; (2) Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims failed; and (3) there were no errors at trial that prevented the real controversy from being tried. View "State v. Hineman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court to deny Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the police officer in this case did not have particularized reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation took place before performing the traffic stop at issue.Officer Alexis Meier was told to be on the lookout for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle driving erratically and speeding. Officer Meier spotted a motorcycle that showed to be a Harley-Davidson registered to Defendant. Without seeing any erratic driving, speeding, or other traffic violations, Officer Meier performed a traffic stop. Officer Meier subsequently developed evidence supporting an arrest for Defendant's eighth operating while intoxicated offense. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the traffic stop was unconstitutional because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, Officer Meier lacked reasonable suspicion to perform the stop. View "State v. Richey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming both Defendant's judgment of conviction and the circuit court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence, holding that police officers' warrantless entry in Defendant's fenced-in back yard was not a valid "knock and talk" investigation and that the entry was not permissible under the exigency of hot pursuit.On appeal, Defendant argued that the police officers lacked an implicit license to enter his backyard, and therefore, the entry violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding (1) the "knock and talk" investigation was not valid because the officers did not have an implicit license to enter Defendant's backyard; and (2) because the officers did not immediately or continuously pursue Defendant from the scene of the crime, the officers' entry into Defendant's backyard was not permissible under the exigency of hot pursuit and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of operating while intoxicated (OWI) sixth offense, in violation of Wis. Stat. 346.63(1)(a), holding that Defendant's constitutional right to be free from abusive governmental searches was satisfied in this case, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.On appeal, Defendant argued that the warrant compelling him to submit to a blood draw was constitutionally defective because, when the affiant signed the affidavit that accompanied the warrant petition, the affiant was not placed under oath or affirmation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the affidavit fulfilled the oath or affirmation requirement under the state and federal Constitutions; and (2) therefore the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Moeser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's postconviction motion but reversing the denial of Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of one count each of felony murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. In his motion for postconviction relief Defendant argued that the trial judge's ex parte contact with one juror violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to hearsay testimony. The circuit court denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of the motion but reversed and remanded on the ground that Defendant was entitled to a hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "State v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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In this case regarding the interpretation of Wis. Stat. 939.46(1m) and the scope of the "affirmative defense for any offense committed as a direct result" of human or child sex trafficking the Supreme Court held that the statute is a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide.Defendant was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson, and several other offenses in connection with the death of the man she says trafficked her. At issue was whether Defendant was entitled to a jury instruction on the defense provided in section 939.46(1m) at trial as to some or all of the charges against her. The Supreme Court declined to answer this question because it would be available to Defendant at trial only if she put forth some evidence to support its application. The Court then held that if Defendant does provide such evidence, it will be the State's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense does not apply. View "State v. Kizer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of two years of initial confinement and two years of extended supervision imposed after he pled no contest to one of six charges of sexual assault, holding that each of the sentencing factors Defendant challenged on appeal bore a reasonable nexus to proper and relevant sentencing factors of general deterrence and protection of the public.Defendant was convicted for sexually assaulting his younger sisters while they were living in an Amish Community. During sentencing, the circuit court commented on the need for adults in the Amish community to intervene to protect the females in the community from sexual abuse. On appeal, Defendant argued that those statements violated his First Amendment rights to religious liberty and association. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no evidence that the circuit court increased Defendant's sentence solely because of his association with the Amish community or his religious beliefs; and (2) the circuit court's challenged statements core a reasonable nexus to the relevant and proper sentencing factors. View "State v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court convicting Defendant on the charge of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not violated.At issue was whether Defendant's constitutional right to counsel was violated when a jail inmate secretly recorded conversations with Defendant and when the State admitted those recordings into evidence. The court of appeals reversed on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, concluding that trial counsel's failure to seek suppression of the recording fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not violated because Defendant was not acting as a State agent when he recorded his conversations with Defendant. View "State v. Arrington" on Justia Law